It could be your gut.
The gut is often referred to as “the second brain”. When it comes to communicating the status of our health, it is profoundly intelligent.
Fascia wraps around every nerve ending in our bodies. Motor nerves, sensory nerves and autonomic nerves (which regulate breathing, heartbeat and digestion) are all present in our abdominal cavity en masse where so many of our bodily functions occur. Consider the abdominal cavity the downtown core of your body. It’s busy, active and connected to all other parts of the body, or the ‘burbs if we’re sticking to our city analogy.
We have more fascia in our abdominal cavity than anywhere else in the body, yet few massage therapists choose to explore it. Tension shows up as hardened fascia, causing adverse effects and health concerns. I see this happening more and more with my clients. They walk into their first session with a health concern and through exploration in their gut we find relief.
Digestive issues, stress, anxiety, skin conditions, menstrual cramps – all connected to the gut.
My client, Danielle originally came to me with back and neck pain that stems from her work as an aesthetician. She is seated, bent over and crouched for extended periods of time and has been living with moderate to severe headaches as a result. When I first assessed her, I knew she had restrictions somewhere in her abdominal cavity. Her shoulders were falling forward and she supported most of her weight on one hip.
In her first session, I could see that her spine was crooked, which is a sign of scoliosis. I went to work right away to relieve tension in her spine and alleviate her pain.
Danielle shared that she has suffered from anxiety attacks for a number of years, often rendering her unable to get out of bed or leave the house. This is not uncommon. I proposed that we look inside Danielle’s gut to see where there might be tension and fascia buildup. Her right abdominal fascia directly above her psoas muscle was restricted so I used myofascial release therapy (link to MRT post here) to release it.
Within seconds, Danielle was feeling symptoms of her anxiety attack such as muscle spasms, nausea and feeling unsafe. With her permission, I held my place on her fascia to release it. Over the course of a few minutes, her symptoms began to dissipate and she was calm. Ultimately, her fascia was so tight and hard that it was impacting the nerves in her gut. A potential trigger for her anxiety attacks.
In the weeks following our initial abdominal myofascial release treatment, Danielle has not experienced an anxiety attack. In subsequent treatments, her symptoms have not returned when I work in her abdomen.
I asked Danielle to describe the change.
“The next day, I didn’t feel anxious. I was used to waking up with anxiety every day for two years. It was just something I was living with. I had to coach myself through it. I didn’t have control of my anxiety or my emotions. Some days it immobilized me and took over. I used to have an anxiety attack about twice a week, but I haven’t had one since that treatment. Now I have anxious moments, which I call “anxious energy”, but it doesn’t control me. I feel equipped to deal with it.”
Danielle had tried yoga, naturopathic treatments, medication and other methods to relieve her back pain and headaches, and to treat her anxiety. She was actively trying to solve a problem that was controlling her daily life.
Danielle’s spine has remained aligned within four treatments using progressive myofascial release therapy. She has maintained a new postural structure, which has alleviated her back pain and headaches.
Ultimately, Danielle’s physiological shape has improved and her anxiety attacks have ceased. I attest these positive changes to the power of massage therapy, abdominal myofascial release and a healthy dose of mindfulness.