We all encounter stresses of different sorts on a daily basis. In my role as an Osteopath I am often treating people as a result of varied physical stresses to the body.
Obviously stress comes in a mental form too. It is clear sometimes in my patients that some of what I treat in them, is a manifestation of this mental form of stress. Left untreated, this can build up and create a great deal of discomfort. Ongoing stress can also alter chemical pathways in our bodies, and hence it’s internal functioning.
Treating problems arising from stress and tension is an everyday part of Osteopathic treatment. Below are a couple of ways of trying to manage these problems.
A common result of holding stress and tension in the head and neck, is a “tension headache”. Often these are felt in the base of the skull. Its not uncommon for the nerves passing through this area to be aggravated by this tension, which can cause the pain to travel over the head, to the forehead and eye region.
These exercises shouldn’t cause pain, if you experience a problem, stop the exercise and consult your Osteopath or other medical practitioner. If you have an existing complaint, it would be wise to consult your practitioner to check these exercises are appropriate for you.
A simple way you may be able to relieve some of this tension yourself is with this simple massage technique. (Please note, there may be other factors creating your symptoms. So this exercise may not work in isolation. Persistent symptoms should be checked by your GP and/or optician.)
Sit back or lay down so you are relatively relaxed. Raise your palm up to cup the back of your head, so your thumb can lie over the tense area at the base of the skull. Using a very gentle pressure, spend a minute or two gently massaging this area with a circling motion. Then swap hands and address the other side.
Focusing on your breathing is also a good way to calm your system down when you’re feeling stressed and under pressure. Getting into good habits of using your diaphragm to it’s fullest, can reap other benefits in the respiratory, cardiovascular and digestive systems. This is due to the diaphragms connections, and also relating to structures that pass through the diaphragm.
The pictures below give you two ways you may like to focus on using the diaphragm effectively. Try and think about breathing in through your nose, and out through your mouth. The idea is to try and fill your lungs up with as much air as possible. So really try and use the lower ribcage and diaphragm muscle in this process. Placing the hands (as in the lower picture), and having a scarf around your lower ribcage serve as feedback to feel where the breath is coming from. They’re not essential. Just think about practicing this for a couple of minutes. Stay relaxed, don’t over-breathe, and don’t worry if it takes a little while to grasp.