Saturday, December 14, 2013
Bowenwork and The Three Ws
So far I put in 20 miles and expect to do another 20 miles this weekend, which will give me 40 for the week. I avoided the pool again this week, waiting until I am completely clear of snot. I did jump on the bike and spin for a while, and I've been doing weights again. I really didn't miss much as a result of the cold. My legs were very tired, though, probably from the combination of the weight workouts along with running.
Yesterday I tried something new...Bowenwork. It's a form of body work that originated in Australia and involves gentle manipulation of the fascia around the muscles. It's done on a massage table but is very different from massage.
I have this chronic neck and trapezius area tightness, that gets aggravated by stress and if I overdo it on the weights. Sometimes it can get so bad that I can't turn my neck to look over my shoulder. I find that regular massage makes it worse.
My friend Helen is from Australia and she is an accredited Bowenwork practitioner. She's a registered nurse, too. I met Helen when I was a new nurse and we both worked in ICU. Eventually we both transferred to other units in the hospital, but we stayed in touch. She's a warm-hearted person with a great sense of humor and as down to earth and genuine as anyone can be. She is one of the good ones...
I have been curious about what she does and yesterday I went over to her studio and she worked on me. My neck has been acting up lately with the weight workouts, and my hamstring is in the process of being worked hard- I've been doing a lot of strengthening and started running hills again.
I went into her studio and she had me fill out an intake form with my health history, we discussed my problem areas, and she had me get onto the table, fully clothed except for anything that might get in the way: extra layers of clothing, jeans, or anything preventing full range of motion for my hamstrings. She covered me with a blanket so I'd be warm, and she began.
It's not like a massage at all. She focuses on a specific area and you know she's in there, but it's not painful, just some pressure on the spot. She works both sides of the same trouble spot, has you do a mild stretch, and then she covers you up again and leaves the room for several minutes. She doesn't say much, she's just focused on finding the right spot. She worked my upper back, lower back, and legs.
After she leaves, you're lying there on the table. I was paying attention to what was going on in my body. I could feel the spot where she worked and a sensation of heat spreading out from the exact spot, but the heat fanned out several inches from it. Then it faded, and by then she came back in the room, and started working on another trouble spot. She was in and out of the room at east a dozen times during the session. First I was face-down on the table, then I was face up.
The interesting thing was, it was at least as relaxing, probably more so, than a massage. In the time when she was out of the room, I focused on the sensation in the area where she worked, and found myself falling asleep because of the warmth and relaxation effect. After she was done, she allowed me to lie there, I was half asleep and only barely aware of her coming into the room the last few times.
Afterwards I asked her what was going on, and how it works physiologically, because I am a nerd and need to know these things. There is no exact, defined explanation of how it works, but there is definitely activation of the neuromuscular junction, the fascia, the stretch receptors and proprioceptors, such as the spindle cells and the Golgi tendon organs. The brief pressure on the area being worked followed by the several minute break allows your brain to process what's going on with your body and begin to make the adjustments at the soft tissue level.
As she worked on me, the injured hamstring didn't bother me, but the other side- the non-injured side- was extremely tight, probably from compensating.
When I was done, Helen told me about the three Ws: water, walk, and wait. Sounds like something I say to the Buffaloes!
It's important to drink lots of water, which is always a good idea anyway, to go for a gentle walk afterward, which makes sense to me, since it would get the circulation going and get the muscle fibers to start responding the way they would normally, after making the adjustments in your posture and soft tissues. The third W, wait, means that it will take time. She said I might be sore the second day, but by the third day things should feel much better and I would feel a difference.
She also told me not to run my shoulder or any of the area she worked on, I was already doing that because of the soreness in my traps. So I stopped. I followed her advice.
On the walk with the dogs I could feel my hamstring, the one that was injured but didn't bother me during the session. But I could already turn my neck much better than I could at the beginning of our session. The rest of the day I felt tired, similar to the way I feel after a long massage. Relaxed, and fuzzy in the brain.
This morning I can feel all the places where she worked on me. They aren't painful, but they are sore when I pay attention to them. My neck is still moving better and I have more pain-free range of motion on both sides. I can still feel the pain at a certain point when I turn my head to the left, but it goes almost to my shoulder pain-free on that side, which is much better than it was yesterday.
I'm curious to see what happens over the next few days, and I'll follow up in another post. Tomorrow would be day 3, so I'll see how things feel then and report back.