Hello everyone and welcome to another edition of Hands On! Today I want to talk about a strange technique that I learned when I was going to school. The reason I say it is strange is that I both love and hate performing it at the same time. It is a technique that has earned me many mean nicknames such as The Pain Bringer, The Torture Master, and other names that I cannot put because this is a family friendly blog.
What is this mysterious Technique you ask? It has become infamously known far and wide as scrubbing the Scalenes. To understand the purpose of this technique and why it is so loved and despised by both me and my clients, I need to explain what the scalene muscles are. Scalenes are three muscles in the front and side of your neck that attach between the upper cervical vertebrae and the upper ribs. The purpose of these muscles is to raise up the ribs when you take a breath so that your lungs can expand. Simple right? So, why are these muscles the cause of so many troubles? Well, if you read an earlier blog where I talk about posture (go ahead pick one there are quite a few.) You will see that I said that the human body adapts to survive and be efficient. Because of this if we are hanging our heads or looking down consistently ,our body will tighten the Scalenes to keep us in said position. The real big problem with this is the fact that right where the clavicle(Collar bone) meets the first rib is an area called the thoracic outlet. This area is the home of two nerves and a vein. The result of all of this rather poor engineering (in my opinion anyway) is that when the Scalenes become very tight it causes the clavicle to impinge these nerves and vein causing constant pain or numbness to run down the arm. Another sad result of tight Scalenes is the restriction of the rotation of the head (being able to look from shoulder to shoulder). Many people do not realize this but not only is your ear canal suppose to line up with your shoulder, but you are suppose to be able to turn your head so your chin touches the top of your shoulder.
So how do I fix these issues? Well kiddies, this is the heart of the issue. First I gently rotate the clients head to check if one direction is more restricted than the other. I then cradle the clients head and turn their head in the direction of the most rotation. I then slowly palpate (feel around for tension) each scalene. I place my hand on their neck with my finger tips pointing toward their feet. I then have them take a deep breath and when they exhale I press in and down sliding down the muscle allowing it to release. I then do this for each scalene on one side then I turn the head and do the same to the other side. To put it lightly doing this is sends a pain down the arm of the side I am working on, an it is definitely not pleasant. This is the dichotomy, I do not like causing my clients pain, but the benefits of seeing their face when their neck turns freely (in some cases almost all the way around) is so satisfying. I mean, to hear a guy cuss me out one minute but then say, “whoa, I have not been able to turn my head in years, how did you do that?” it is an amazing thing.
The really funny part is when I tell them about what we had to do in class. We would do the technique but our partners had to breath in and out and we would follow the muscle all the way to their sternum. The scariest part was we knew that shortly the instructor was going to say, “ok people, switch” and the person we were working on was going to do it to us.
To this day I relish being taught this technique, because I have found out that most Massage Therapists weren’t. I will keep performing it unless the client asks me not to, then I will say “ok, but please do not have me quit doing it indefinitely because it will hurt more later.” Which is true because the tighter the muscle the more it compresses the thoracic outlet area and the more it hurts.
So, what did you think? Did I leave you in pain or are you feeling the benefit of me releasing this information. Let me know in the comments section below. also If you enjoyed this post remember to like, share and follow me for more enervating posts. As always I am constantly looking for more topics to cover so if you have an idea or a question I could cover in a future post let me know in the comments as well. Until next time remember to keep your head up, take a deep breath and remind yourself discomfort is only temporary. Thanks guys and happy belated Easter.