Sometimes I get a client who “can’t fog up a mirror.” No, not dead, this client just had no visible signs of breathing.
Her presentation was odd stiffness on the right side of the spine at T-3, not pain, but not feeling right. I was thinking some sort of paraesthesia. She uses her right arm and side a lot at work, and has what a lot of us therapists would call “Type A” personality.
And as she talked, I could hear her. But shuckers, I could not detect her taking a breath. In or out. Nada.
I also noticed her chest looked very tight, with her sternum and shoulders looking relatively large and her posture too perfect. I thought about the “Charles Atlas” or “military posture” in which people have too erect a posture and hyper-inflated chests. A classic form of a person in a hurry with a lot of responsibility and a sense of loss of control. Hmmn. That is modern life, isn’t it?
Hey, whatever I observe, the massage tells the story. This lady had severe knots in the anterior serratus, traps, thoracic erectors and stabilizers. And a heck of a time breathing,
After a warm-up massage, I decided to try for a breath. Prone, with the shoulder supported by a thick towel, I rotated the arm onto the low back and applied medium pressure with my ulna to the T-3 zone next to the spine.
And I waited. How long? 15 seconds? A minute? With no overt response. It seemed as though her entire body took a pause. Then the belly expanded, her thoracic spine began to soften. With the arm rotated behind her, the SCMs, serrati and traps couldn’t provide their usual forced inspiration. We have diaphragm!
As these things often do, the story poured out. She had been working a lot and she had a bad blood test. She had several expensive scans and a biopsy, stretching over two months, before the doctors figured it out. It was an unusual auto-immune disorder, with no choice of drug except steroids.
With all that stress, her breath had gotten “tight” and simply would not calm down. When she came out of my therapy room, the “football shoulders” were gone. She looked pretty relaxed.
By Susan Peterson, CAMTC, NCTMB