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  1. Neck and shoulder pain? Tight or painful chest? Stressed at work? This article might help!


    Neck and shoulder pain? Tight or painful chest? Stressed at work?
    Neck and shoulder pain? Tight or painful chest? Stressed at work? Does your pain keep returning? Breathing patterns can contribute to, or even cause chronic muscular pain. Discover more here – and what you might do to start finding relief…

    The role of the breath

    The breath has many functions; it is involved in the exchange and regulation of oxygen/carbon dioxide, and the optimal performance of the brain, organs and tissues. It assists digestion, it helps push fluids around the body, it permits communication, and it mobilises the spine, ribs and shoulders.

    Our breath is intimately intertwined with our body’s emotional responses and stress levels. How so? – The primary muscle of breathing is the diaphragm – this is motor controlled by the phrenic nerve. Phren means ‘mind’ or ‘brain’ in Greek – and the phrenic nerve forms a direct connection, like an umbilical cord, between the mind and body.

    What has all this got to do with my painful shoulders?

    When we feel stressed at work, we have an ‘alarm bell’ in our brains called the Amygdala. The word Amygdala is Greek for ‘Almond’ – and the Amygdala is a small, almond shaped piece of our brain that alerts us to anything that threatens our survival. However, like a smoke alarm – it can’t tell whether you’ve burnt the cooking, or the house is on fire. It’s job is simply to ring the alarm FAST and AUTOMATICALLY.

    Once this alarm system is ‘set off’, in turn it sets off a ‘sprinkler system’ of hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol.

    This stress response system is also known as the fight/flight/freeze response. It creates a number of physiological changes, one of which is muscular tension. This can translate to neck and shoulder pain as well as a tight, painful chest.

    The fight/flight/freeze response

    The mechanisms that alert and control our stress response haven’t changed since we were hanging out in caves. They are based upon the primitive instinct for survival.

    Let’s just imagine you are sitting in your homely cave, eating a delicious dinner, and minding your own business. A Sabre tooth tiger strolls past the mouth of the cave, and you have 3 choices;

    1. Run up, and punch him on the nose (fight)
    2. Try to run past him and escape (flight)
    3. Or sit very, very still, and hope he doesn’t notice you (freeze)

    Neck and shoulder pain? Tight or painful chest? Stressed at work? The fight/flight/freeze response explained

    Most of us have probably heard of the fight, or flight responses – the heart races as the blood flows to the limbs in preparation for action. The freeze response, or breath holding, is less talked about – but is especially relevant for those with suffering with neck and shoulder pain, or a tight, painful chest who seek deep tissue, or sports massage.

    The freeze response, or ‘breath holding’

    The freeze response, or breath holding happens when we feel fear, anticipation, or when we are waiting for more information before making a decision.

    Imagine it’s late afternoon on a Friday. You’ve only got a couple of hours left to work, before you’re due to head out for pre-planned, romantic date. Without warning your boss comes along, dumps a huge file on your desk, and asks for it to be dealt with before you leave.

    What do you do?

    1. Stand up, and without a single word, proceed to punch them in the head? (fight)
    2. Grab your coat, and run out the door? (flight)
    3. Or sit very still, and hope that this problem will somehow go away without devouring you? (freeze)

    Neck and shoulder pain? Tight or painful chest? Stressed at work? The fight/flight/freeze response explained

    We might have considered hitting the boss, or running away to the arms of our waiting lover, but most of us would have made a quick appraisal of the situation, and decided that we were actually looking forward to our pay cheque at the end of the month.

    Breath holding is a primitive survival instinct, and when we are under stress, physiological stress responses are AUTOMATIC. When we freeze, unless we are extremely body aware, we will not usually notice it.

    Breath holding also happens when we have an injury, or we’re in physical pain – and we are fearful that further movement will exacerbate our pain.

    So what’s happening to our body when we ‘freeze’?

    Our breathing becomes shallow
    Our ribs move less.
    Our muscles become tense

    In other words, we are ‘playing dead’ – remember the Sabre tooth tiger? If he doesn’t see us in his peripheral vision – we just might survive!

    Like the smoke alarm in the earlier example, the stress response does not differentiate between threats – therefore a sabre tooth tiger and a demanding boss can (and do) both inspire the same biochemical reaction.

    Neck and shoulder pain? Tight or painful chest? Stressed at work? The fight/flight/freeze response explained

    Our physiological systems are just doing their jobs – and responding, unconsciously and automatically, to the ‘threat’ they are presented with.

    When this is repeated day after day in our workplace, the constant ‘threat’ can cause our muscles to stiffen, and feel hard and stuck – leading to chronic pain and dysfunction.

    Typical complaints are tight, sore, frozen shoulders, stiff necks, neck and shoulder pain, tight/painful chest and sore backs.

    Sound familiar?

    Ouch! So what happens next?

    If not acknowledged, and dealt with adequately, stress can cause health problems, of which muscle pain (and neck, chest and shoulder pain and stiffness) can be one of the first obvious symptoms. The long term effects of stress are well documented; they include feeling tired and run down, frequently getting ill, muscle soreness and headaches – all warning signs that your body needs some kindly attention. Beginning your journey to wellness through awareness of breath can provide an insight into exactly how much YOU can do to take part in stepping OUT of repetitive, unhealthy cycles of stress…

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    How do I eradicate neck and shoulder pain caused by breath holding?

    It can be very worrying to have pain and not know what has caused it – and whether it will ever go away!

    The good news is muscular pain caused by work related stress is usually very treatable. It is important however to firstly find out if there are any other underlying mechanical reasons for your neck or shoulder pain, such as an old injury.

    Breath holding might be holding your neck and shoulder muscles tense in an attempt to protect the injury site. Going to a good sports and remedial massage therapist or soft tissue therapist can help get to the bottom of your pain – and help you understand it. A good sports and remedial massage therapist will refer to another specialist if they feel it needs further investigation.

    We’ve written a popular article ‘Why do my neck and shoulders hurt at work’ which also may help you build a bigger picture of the variety of factors that contribute to neck and shoulder pain.

    Breath holding is just one feature of respiratory patterns, and breathing patterns can vary hugely between people. It can be helpful to develop an awareness of your breathing pattern with the assistance of a therapist or teacher.

    Meditation/mindfulness and/or yoga taught by a good teacher can be a great start in developing general breathing awareness. A good manual therapist who specialises in breath/body awareness is also a very good start. ‘One to one’ work can be very effective in fast tracking learning – whether this is Yoga, Pilates, Sports and Remedial Massage or any other type of bodywork. What is important is the knowledge of the teacher and the working relationship you have together.

    What do City Sports Massage do?

    At City Sports Massage in London we are passionate about helping clients to experience the relationship between their breath and body, in order that they may discover freedom from pain, and a deep understanding of the often pervasive mechanisms of the stress response.

    We work with many different professions – variety is something we LOVE! We specialise in working with people in pain. Whoever they are, and whatever they do.

    At City Sports Massage we always aim to put YOU in the driving seat – giving you a greater awareness and understanding of your body, so that you can take the steps YOU need, OUTSIDE of the clinic, to stay pain and stress-free.

    Whichever route you go…Remember to let your breath be your friend. It’s always there for you. Make friends with it – get to know it!

    Please note that this article is for general information purposes only. If you are suffering from a medical condition, diagnosis should be carried out by your Doctor, or a medical professional. City Sports Massage are not liable for the content of any external websites.

    © Jon Gee 2014 Jon Gee is the founder of City Sports Massage, a team of sports massage therapists based in London who combine deep-tissue massage therapy with stress-reduction and body-awareness techniques. Jon has worked with body dynamics for almost two decades, and specialises in treating pain that is chronic and longstanding. He often incorporates the teaching of mindfulness, breathing and body awareness skills, in order to help clients self-manage, and be less reliant on massage/bodywork treatments. Jon also teaches other health practitioners, and has written articles on his teaching methods for the peer-reviewed Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies.
  2. Mindfulness for Massage Therapists Workshops – read the reviews here!


    Learning how Mindfulness for Massage Therapists and Bodyworkers can help your practice.

    Learning how Mindfulness for Massage Therapists and Bodyworkers can help your practice.

    Mindfulness for Massage Therapists Workshops – The testimonials

    As you may have read in our previous post, Jon Gee’s Mindfulness for Massage Therapists – with Myofascial Release 2 day CPD Workshops have just been launched to external practitioners, i.e. those outside of the City Sports Massage team. It is these 2 day workshops that have formed the bedrock of what has made City Sports Massage successful so far!

    Later this year Jon will be launching further workshops open only to those who have completed the 2 day Mindfulness for Massage Therapists. These workshops are open to Massage therapists, Yoga Teachers, Pilates Instructors, Physiotherapists, Osteopaths and Chiropractors – and any bodyworkers with a qualification in Anatomy & Physiotherapy.

    You’ll find here a selection of quotes from those who’ve attended Jon’s 90 minute workshops at Earl’s Court Camexpo last November, as well as a couple of more lengthy quotes from a current, and a previous CSM therapist who have both attended the two day (previously in house only) Mindfulness for Massage Therapists workshops.

    Testimonials from CAMEXPO at Earls Court – 90 minute Introduction to Mindfulness for Clinical Practitioners

    Via Facebook

    Two attendees found the City Sports Massage Facebook page and left lovely comments; They are referring to Jon’s fabulous assistant on the Saturday workshop, Jacky.

    “Just wanted to say a massive thank you to Jon Gee and Jacky Sayers for the inspiring workshop yesterday at the CAM expo! Thoroughly enjoyed it and hope that you will succeed in developing a course, would love to attend. Thank you again!” Merel Keuning

    “I agree thank u so very much Jon Gee and Jacky Sayers. Really fab workshop.” Chris Blondell

    Via Email

    “It was a wonderful workshop and thought provoking in the best sort of way…I would love to learn more about the sort of workshops you might carry out…I liked your calm manner and approach.” KB

    Via Practitioners’ Feedback forms

    “I really enjoyed the practical elements and the very clear, concise explanations and examples of mindfulness practice.”

    “Jon is a great speaker and communicator.”

    “Well organised, clear presentation.”

    “Enjoyed considering the implications for practice.”

    “Gained a clear understanding of mindfulness with examples – loved the raisin exercise.”

    “Enjoyed relating the practice of mindfulness to clients.”

    “Raised awareness of importance of self care for practitioners and for clients.”

    “It made me more aware, and a lot more sensitive.”

    Testimonials from City Sports Massage Therapists

    “Jon’s CPD workshops have provided me with an expansive and yet stable framework for the implementation of more integrated overview of health. The principles I’ve taken away with me have since become an integral part of my own practice.

    Jon’s use of language and simple analogies relating to the structure and function of the body made the concepts explored during the workshops easily applicable to practice.

    Working with mindfulness, breath and movement meant that I really embodied the subjects we covered, which in turn made me a better teacher when it came to integrating this style of body work into my own practice.

    Jon’s teaching methods are insightful, engaging and comprehensive. I would recommend to anyone wishing to enhance their practice and/or business…
    Fuchsia Farrow (Senior CSM Therapist)

    “The training at CSM is unlike any you’ll ever go through as a massage therapist. It’s not about learning sparkling new hands-on techniques, although that does form part of it – It will teach you to read the atmosphere of a room and tune in to what your client is going through so that you can deliver a treatment incredibly personal to that client. Building the principles of mindfulness into bodywork gives you the confidence to trust your instincts, trust what your hands are telling you about where they want to go, trust that the rest of your senses are giving you an accurate picture of what’s going on in the room. It’s all about working in the present moment, and enabling your client to be in the present moment, so that everything you do is effective.

    I can’t tell you just how much I’ve come on as a therapist through being part of this fabulous team. I’m truly sorry to be leaving them all behind, but I know that the skills I’ve learned both in practice as a therapist and through the thoughtful, insightful workshops delivered by Jon will be things I’ll keep with me for the rest of my life – above and beyond work.

    I can’t recommend this training highly enough – it’s been worth everything I’ve put into it, and more. I can’t see that anyone would come out feeling any different.”
    Kath Breslin (former CSM Therapist)

    “Jon’s mindfulness workshops teach a completely different approach to massage than the one I had learned so far, it does not focus so much on techniques to be applied, but rather in learning how to be present and connected with your client, how to read through your hands.

    This new approach is just beautiful, it has made me a much better practitioner because it allows me to enjoy this constant exploration, and to learn from it every time…It has totally transformed my practice.”
    Eva Garcia (CSM Therapist)

    Since undertaking this, and other CSM workshops run by Jon Gee, I have found that my relationships with my clients, my trust in myself, and my willingness to experiment with new techniques has grown far beyond the bounds I would have considered possible…Previously I had found it so easy to feel out of my depth. The mindfulness techniques I have learned have helped me to acknowledge unhelpful thoughts and feelings, and then to either let them go, or put them to one side for later consideration. I’ve learned instead to connect with my clients spoken and unspoken needs, and to work with them towards achieving their goals, with a sense of sure footedness and joy in the task at hand…to simply be in the moment itself with them, to let all other fears or expectations slip away, and trust that my hands and my understanding of the body will lead me to offer the best I can. Now my client sessions are a joy and a discovery, and I feel much surer of my abilities to provide the right treatment…I can recommend wholeheartedly.
    Jacky Sayers (CSM Advanced Therapist)

    PLEASE NOTE THAT PLACES ON THESE WORKSHOPS ARE STRICTLY LIMITED. To find out more about this CPD workshop – and how to book a place, please click here.

  3. How to stay injury free in the last few days pre-London Marathon, AND have the best chance of success


    Eat healthily. Rest body & mind, and STAY POSITIVE for the London Marathon!

    Eat healthily. Rest body & mind, and STAY POSITIVE for the London Marathon!


    By early April most London Marathon runners are ‘tapering off’, and are getting ready to rest, and eat well pre London Marathon. It is normal at this stage for runners to ask themselves “have I trained enough/in the right way?”

    Have I trained enough/in the right way?

    In our many years of experience we’ve seen runners who have, in some cases, trained at half the marathon distance before the day of the event, and still complete the marathon on the day.

    Despite such heroics, it’s important to always honour your body and it’s limitations. Remember you can always ‘live to fight another day’ – there are marathons worldwide, and in some beautiful places too!

    Crucially, success on the day of the marathon is not just about how long and hard you’ve hit the streets for during training.

    What are other important factors for success on London Marathon day?

    In the last week or so before the London Marathon, it is tempting to try to squeeze in more hard training. If you do, you are in a DANGER ZONE. This is the time we see the most injuries, as runners can be tempted to panic, and run too hard. Or worse still, beat the time of their longest run so far. If you are a professional runner, and/or receiving running coaching, then listen to your coach, but otherwise ACCEPT what training you have done so far, and concentrate on the other important factors for success on London Marathon day;

    Nutrition
    Energy levels
    Mental wellbeing

    So in the last few days before the event, the most important things to do are;

    Eat healthily
    Rest – Body & Mind
    Stay positive, and get ready to ENJOY the exciting event that is coming up!

    On the day of the event, many first timers are pleasantly surprised by how truly supportive the London Marathon crowds really are – it provides a huge boost of adrenaline and encouragement, and serves as a big shot of energy on the day!

    How can sports massage help my London Marathon?

    Sports massage is about maximising results, minimising chance of injury, and treating injury when it has happened. It forms a healthy and helpful part of a pre London Marathon training regime, easing muscles that have been pounding London’s streets and parks.

    Many London Marathon runners visit us in the days before the event (whether or not they have been coming for regular treatments) for a last minute sports massage, and we’re sure that pretty much ALL London Marathon runners are looking forward to getting their muscles flushed out post event!

    Don’t worry about coming in for a sports massage too soon afterwards – if you are still sore after the London Marathon, the City Sports Massage London team will work accordingly gently, but it will still be very effective in restoring your legs to their former glowing happiness!

    Oh yes – and if you are a temporary marathon ‘widow’, or ‘widower’, (i.e. you have temporarily ‘lost’ your partner to marathon training) perhaps you might like to buy a City Sports Massage gift voucher for yourself – as a present for putting up with all those lonely evenings in, whilst your partner was out training?

    Have fun on Marathon day – Good luck – and ENJOY the event!

    Book your Sports Massage NOW Ask for City Sports Massage
    © Jon Gee 2014 Jon Gee is the founder of City Sports Massage, a team of sports massage therapists based in London who combine deep-tissue massage therapy with stress-reduction and body-awareness techniques. Jon has worked with body dynamics for almost two decades, and specialises in treating pain that is chronic and longstanding. He often incorporates the teaching of mindfulness, breathing and body awareness skills, in order to help clients self-manage, and be less reliant on massage/bodywork treatments. Jon also teaches other health practitioners, and has written articles on his teaching methods for the peer-reviewed Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies.