The upstream and downstream of bodywork

A new client came in recently, we’ll call her Glenda. She complained of pain in her lower right rib area from a car accident about 5 years ago. “It feels as if it pops out of place” she said.

 As I explored and palpated the area and verified where she felt the pain she anxiously asked, “Is there inflammation there?”

Instead of answering her directly I said “Your body is really protective of this area.”

It was beautiful to see and feel her response. She took a deep breath and said, “Yeah, that makes sense.” Here whole being relaxed and her exquisite parasympathetic system came on board.

These are the moments I treasure – I call them hallelujah moments.

Using the phrase “Your body is really protective of this area.” is a tip I got from the marvelous pain researcher Lorimer Moseley. Lorimer was a recent guest on the Thinking Practitioner podcast.

Lorimer is one of the most well respected pain researchers in the world. An Australian he is a former physiotherapist (PT to those of us in the U.S.) He’s a marvelous speaker who uses stories to explain pain and he’s also very funny. If you haven’t heard a talk by Lorimer just search for him on You Tube – you’re in for a treat.

What’s the moral of this story?! Instead of saying to a client “yes, it’s probably inflamed, or you’ve got fascial adhesions, or you’ve got trigger points, or your SI joint is out etc” start by going upstream (brain/nervous system) by simply saying “Your body is really protective of this area.”

My client got it immediately but not everyone will. If your client says something like, “What do you mean by that?” a good answer might be, “muscles, tendons, ligaments and fascia are puppets of the nervous system and the brain is pulling the strings”* and educating them about nervous system states.

Starting upstream is calming and reassuring to your client and allows your downstream (body) work to be more effective.


  *Brian Clark, Ph.d  director of The Ohio Musculoskeletal and Neurological Institute



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