Alice had had aching and tension in her upper back, neck and shoulder for quite some time.  It wasn’t severe pain, but it was persistent – almost always with her.  She put up with it, thinking it would eventually sort out on its own, but really she began to forget what it was like to be without it.  Alice had put up with her pain till she’d forgotten “normal”!

She came to see me after talking to a colleague at the primary school where she worked about it, and they suggested that osteopathy might be helpful.  Alice described her daily life to me; she works long hours either in school or at home, and spends a fair amount of that time sitting at a desk or at her kitchen table, marking and doing lesson plans.  In her “down time” she likes reading, knitting, and goes reasonably often to a spin class.  She referred to herself as quite an anxious person, whose stress often goes to her shoulders.

Interrupting the Loop

As I talked with Alice, and examined her, it became evident that there were two issues in particular that were affecting her.  Firstly, her everyday life tended to involve extended periods of time spent with her head and shoulders forward, and her hobbies did nothing to counterbalance this.  Secondly, when she gets anxious, or stressed with work, she has a habit of shallow breathing.  This overworks the muscles around her neck and shoulders, and feeds back into her “anxiety loop”.

Alice and I worked together over several weeks to help her situation.  We did a lot of work in the treatment room to release tension and increase mobility around Alice’s neck and shoulders, across the front of her chest, her ribs and upper back, and then into her mid and lower back and hips.  I suggested some exercises she could do at home to help maintain the benefits of that work.

Then we worked together in the clinic to focus Alice’s attention back to her diaphragm when she’s breathing, and learned breathing techniques that she could use to interrupt her “anxiety loop” when she felt the need.

We also talked about her work set-up, and made a few easy modifications which meant she could sit at her table more comfortably whilst doing her paperwork.  Finally, we discussed some ideas around activities that would give her body a change from its habitual positions.  She started walking regularly and included a yoga class in her weekly schedule – especially great as she finds that helps with relaxation and anxiety management!

Do you need to interrupt your pain cycle?

Alice took action, and ceased the cycle that was causing her chronic pain.  Now, when she does start to feel tense and achy, she has some strategies in place to stop it before it gets going.  On top of that, she feels brighter, more energetic and generally in better health.

If you, like so many people, put up with chronic aches, and have forgotten what normal feels like, perhaps it’s time to try osteopathy and get back to the real you.