I was camped at the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival one year and one of the people of the group I was staying with approached me, wondering if I could help someone. He’d seen a woman walking back towards her tent in tears, her face red, clearly in distress and he was nice enough to ask about her welfare. She’d just had a massage and it had gone terribly wrong, a simple relaxation massage, working on her neck and back tightness, routine. A number of things ran through my head, and I noticed her head position, it was far forward of where it should be. One of the first things I learned after leaving Massage School was that sometimes the problem is on the opposite side of the body to where the pain is.
The client had neck and back pain and that’s what the therapist had worked on, but in doing so had relaxed the wrong muscles. They had needed a little attention, they had been fighting and losing to the muscles pulling the head forward and became tired. Would this person trust another therapist? I’d been given a skilled rating by the Good Samaritan, but I thought I should explain first why this had occurred and with her permission, what I would do about it.
I told her about head position, that currently the muscles pulling her head forward had no competition, and the ones trying and failing to pull the head back were in agony. I’d have to push her head back while holding her upper back so that she didn’t need to use her muscles any more than necessary. Gently pushing, I repositioned her head and the pain diminished. I continued to push, now competing with those muscles pulling her head forward, maintaining the challenge until they started to release and it became easier to keep her head in the correct position. I didn’t exceed the challenge, didn’t want to move her head back further, so we just stood there for a while, until her head stayed in place without effort. The pain had gone, but she’d never forget, probably never get another massage again.
If you ever get a massage and the benefits only last two hours or less, the therapist didn’t find the cause, and didn’t explain how to maintain the work done. If the first therapist had noticed the head forward position, the tight Sternocleidomastoids, perhaps even the Platysma and worked on those …
I teach people how to do the Wall Angel stretch to release all those muscles involved in a seated, hunched up posture – such as working on a computer or driving that affect so many people. We didn’t have a door or wall to stand against at the Festival, a little imagination was needed.
Stand 6”-8” away from a wall or door, make sure there’s nothing nearby that you might bump into. Lean back against the wall.
Tip your pelvis so that your lower back is in contact with the wall.
If you develop low back pain bend your knees.
Place the back of your head against the wall and lower your chin.
Place your arms against the wall such that your wrists and elbows are in contact with the wall.
Now move your arms up and down, keep them in contact with the wall. Twenty-five times. It’s not easy.
Often one or both your wrists and / or elbows come away from the wall. Try to keep them in contact, and keep the back of your head touching the wall and chin down. Repeat this three times a day until you find it easy to do, then use when needed.