Forgive me for implanting an ear worm and for the gratuitous bikini video but I really must echo the sentiment so happily expressed by the chaps of Acid Groove: “I wanna see you wiggle it, just a little bit…” http://youtu.be/p2PGNA2u_HI
So what I hear you asking are you on about? This is a massage therapist’s website, why are you imploring us to “wiggle it?”
All fun aside, it’s actually a serious message. The old adage of ‘use it or lose it,’ is vitally important to maintaining movement and joint function. There are 360 joints in the body, providing us with this incredible skeleton that holds us up. There are various different types of joints that move different ways but the ones I am interested in us getting a ‘wiggle on’ are synovial joints.
Lining the inner joint capsule of a synovial joint is a thin synovial membrane. The cells of this membrane secrete synovial fluid (synovia = “a thick fluid”), a thick, slimy fluid that provides lubrication to further reduce friction between the bones of the joint. It’s is also important a as this fluid provides nourishment to the cartilage, which does not contain blood vessels. Cleverly, movement in these joints makes the synovial membrane produce more synovial fluid, to continue to lubricate and hydrate thus maintaining the smooth movement in the joint. Clearly, less movement = less synovial fluid = more creaky joints.
In the past, patients undergoing surgery were bed bound for sometime but now the awareness of the importance of movement as part of the healing process is there, you can expect to be up and moving ASAP.
So from a massage perspective how can I help? Many clients will know that I often move their limbs around and I am often asked what I am doing. This is called mobilisation, I work to remind the joints of their range of movement and open up the space in the joint to encourage the production of synovial fluid. Personally, when I discovered how we loose our connection to our bodies I started to understand the importance of reminding our bodies that we can move more than we think we can.
My own example of this came in a yoga class. I have, like many of my clients, very stiff shoulders. I also have an impinged nerve in my right shoulder that I am consciously mindful of in all my movement. That consciousness follows through to my subconscious and somewhere deep in my brain, the mind body connection is saying ‘freeze – don’t move, you will get a nasty headache.’ That difference between the conscious and unconscious is vitally important to recognise. I have learnt that in time, I will through this issue, but my body often overrides my brain and is stepping in, not allowing the movement so that it protects protect against pain. Yes, our bodies, really do know what they are doing, far more than our conscious brain but that’s a whole other subject for another day.
So back to the class. On the floor, in a pose that requires you to lie, face down, clasping your hands behind your back and to lift the hands away from the back. I lay there, mystified, my hands will not move. My brain is sending messages, come on, lift up, look around (yes, I know yoga is an indivdual practice and you must not compare yourself to others) but no movement. My teacher comes along and to both of our amazement, is able to lift my arms, thus moving the shoulder joints, up and away from my back to quite a considerable degree. Clearly, my minds connection with these joints has switched off.
I know, that this has been a long process getting to the point of not being able to move. I also know that in trying to protect from pain by not moving the problem is actually getting worse because the less I am moving these joints the less fluid is being produced and the less I can move them.* Added to that the depreciation in muscle strength and more and you can see how the weakness will increase and by result, more pain is likely.
So, in the massage I receive, in my yoga class, I ask the teacher and the therapist to help me move these joints, knowing that over time, I can rebuild the mind body connection and hopefully improve the weakness in these areas. Recognising that, being mindful of how long it has taken to create the weakness, I know it will take time to re strengthen. In the dim and distant past, I may have launched into a strong fitness programme but repetition of that process has not served me well so slow and steady will get me there and more than a little ‘wiggle’ will help.
Back to you, my clients, now you know what I am doing when I lift your shoulder and move it around, or lift your legs and bend them, I am gently seeking to wake up your mind body connection, to remind your body that it can move and remind the synovial membrane to do its job, to lubricate the joints.
On a much more serious note, I hope this also illuminates the importance of the need for massage for everyone, particularly elderly clients, those who are post surgery and those in long-term pain. The gentleness of the movement that I offer, the care to these fragile parts of the body can, in that moment, provide a window of release, a reminder that we are embodied beings. These bodies we inhabit need our care.
So, what ever you are up to this Bank Holiday, move your bodies, wiggle them just a little bit and remember, we are amazing in this magnificent bodies of ours.