Thursday, March 13, 2014

Stretches, Deep Tissue Massage, Myofascial Release, and Horn Playing

Two sessions ago I had some tissue relieved around my back. After that session I had all the soreness and tension move up into primarily my neck. I felt like the contractions around my neck were so strong they were choking me (I'm being overdramatic, but it really did hurt). I could feel a lightening like shock start from the back of my head, run down my neck, and into my shoulder blade and right shoulder. This happened everytime I tried to turn my head to the left. I didn't have tremors, but if I tried to pull my face to the left and hold it there, a spasm would creep up and jerk my head to the right. I knew this feeling in the past....

It felt very similar to my encounter with neck dystonia in the past. I kind of got freaked out. I asked my doctor about it and they said it was definitely a pinched nerve, trapped by the surrounding tissue. We were doing everything we could to release the tissue in the places I felt either pain, soreness, contractions, spasms, or tenderness. But just recently it had flaired up in my neck.

So this week I've had a lot of deep tissue massage to help loosen up the tissue in my back, shoulders, neck, and lower jaw, then combined with acupuncture, and myofascial release. My neck feels so much better now!!! I can still feel the nerve a bit irritated in the right side, but there's definitely been a softening of the tissue. My shoulders and neck have never felt this light, relaxed, and butter. My right side is of course still a little tense in areas. 

This most recent acupuncture session was very good. She said there's been a significant break-through. We made great progress. She was working on loosening up the tissue right on that fleshy mound at the back of my neck. She did some type of stretch with my lower jaw and was also pushing on tissue back there, and there was a huge release. We also did a lot of needles around nerve points. My skin has been red for 2-3 days straight now. She said that was normal though and that this is great news because it means the blood circulation is consistent now, and that the pink around my face will go away in time, but for now it is a good sign we hadn't seen before. I also was very lucky to receive a device that will help me at home. 

I'm feeling really good right now. The pain in my face has gone down significantly, and I only feel slight throbbing up near the sides of my eyes along the zygomatic nerve. Otherwise most of my tension and pain is still in my neck and shoulders, but less intense than before...wayyyyy less tense. One a scale of 1-10, my pain before was close to a 9, and now it feels more like a 4 or 5. Again, I'm not playing my horn at all. I'm not allowed to until my body is 100% free of pain, soreness, muscle contractions, and spasms. 

I've also been doing stretches to help with my muscles around my upper back, neck, and shoulders. Here are a couple that help me out a lot (I tried to find them online as best as I could), and have done wonders for me within the last couple of weeks:  

Also this too ---> :) Link: Upper Back Stretches

Friday, March 7, 2014

All Signs Lead to the Source

My last acupuncture session was intense. The week before it, the soreness I felt in my face was most noticeable in my higher cheek bone, the lower jaw closest to that corner/round part of the jaw below the ear but on the corner of the bone (that didn't make an sense at all did it?). I also felt a lightening like shock run from the top of my cheekbone all the way down to the upper corner of my lips. This shock would go off even when I heard a loud noise, or if someone surprised me, I could feel the tingling shock run down my cheekbone. The sides of my chin hurt.

My acupuncturist did some needs around the areas I felt soreness, but also did a bunch on my back...and my god....did I feel the blood start to immediately take over my right back shoulder. I could feel this intense warm feeling that was almost heavy. I could feel my muscles loosing up and a sense of relief....a painful relief if that makes sense. I had never realized how much tension there was in my shoulder. I always knew my shoulders were pretty crappy because I've always had football/quarterback shoulders that are very broad and tense. I always thought it was genetic as I see the exact same shoulders in my biological family.

Anywhoo, after that session the soreness moved from the right side of my shoulder to the left, and I could feel soreness behind my ears and all the way down the back of my neck. I felt part of the back of my jaw on the right side loosen up since the muscles on the back of my right shoulder loosened up or did something. I felt a change. It was somewhat better, but not completely relaxed.....but definitely way better than before.

My acupuncturist/myofascial specialist said that it's normal for winding (what they call what I have in Chinese Medicine) to move around. But it was definitely good that I was finally feeling things in the left side of my face, neck, and shoulder.....whereas my primary symptoms have been on the right side heavily. Therefore the left side is actually the weaker side/non-responsive...and finally we saw a change. I can feel the left side's sensations become just as heavy as the right side....where before like I said it was less noticeable on that side. More than anything acupuncture has made me highly aware of my body even more so. The first couple sessions I didn't notice too much of a change, and the soreness remained in the same areas, but over time I noticed things starting to move around more Christmas tree lights that dance to music...that's what I felt like the soreness in my face was doing; just moving all around the place.

This last session my acupuncturist was feeling around my upper body. She's amazing because she can feel and sense where my soreness is...I rarely have to tell her where I'm having problems because she can already tell by just looking at me, or by what she feels. It always blows my mind how much she knows about my facial problems.

Anyways, she was feeling my neck and she said, "Your neck feels like a concrete rock. That's not normal. I bet you this is where your nerve entrapment is really coming from...your neck/shoulder muscles. They are all linked. Plus, you said that in the past you had neck tension problems when younger and you couldn't turn your head to the left and they diagnosed you with another form of dystonia. I believe your neck or upper body tension will always be a chronic problem you need to address. It's probably crept up on you again over the years and affected your face. Also combining that tension with repetitive state of contraction; the way you hold your horn, the muscles being overworked, etc. However, it can be corrected by focusing on better posture, constant care in addressing the tension when it starts, and knowing now where is comes your shoulders and backs, and making sure it doesn't spread any further into your face. When I first saw your spasms in your face, I knew that the source is not always what it seems.

You first felt weakness or a burning/lack of sensitivity in your upper lip, then a dull soreness in the center of your cheeks, then after acupuncture that soreness spread to many different areas of your face, and eventually led to the back of the jaw, then the upper cheekbone, then the lower jaw, then the corners of the mouth, and so forth, and eventually moved to the neck and shoulders, and now the back. Everytime that sore feeling moves, it is like a torch lighting up a pathway that leads to the source. But we can't just work on the source right have to work your way backwards.

I'm guessing what happened is the tension in your back and neck entrapped a nerve, then this led to the muscles in the face having to overwork themselves, this built up tissue in the jaw, and this changed the way your face functions, and eventually led to injury, and pretty soon not only were your facial muscles overworked, but your nerves too, and you're left with a very weak embouchure. No wonder you are experiencing spasms when you play, and now pain. But we have to work our way backwards. We have to loosen up the tissue built up, we have to address where the soreness occurs first around the face. We can address the back and neck at the same time....but you never want to ignore the signs and just address where you think it's coming from. That's just like putting a band-aid on something and hoping it heals all the other areas you feel tension and pain. It's not enough to just relieve tension in one area. All signs lead to the source."

She did some type of ointment on my back and scrapped with something along my shoulders. I felt very relieved after that. More than anything I started to feel more things in my left side than before, which is good!!!! I'm so surprised to feel this. Also she was observing the spasms in my lips when I was showing her my stretches and embouchure formation, and she moved some tissue around my face very gently, and when I tried to do the stretches and embouchure formation again it was completely was less noticeable. The spasms are less noticeable when I form an embouchure, however they are very noticeable when I do the opposite and try to pucker my lips outward  like a duck-face. But I did notice the tension in my corners has now moved more lower and I can feel them when I make a frowning face. Overall things look a lot better and my face looks different!!!!

I haven't played my horn AT ALL. I'm determined not to play my horn until I know my face and upper body is 100% free of tension, soreness, and contractions. This week I've been super aware of my posture and I realize one of my biggest problems is of course that which only a woman gets to experience due to their chest. However, I've been working out a lot to try to take less stress of weight on my body, and I already feel better. Ever since moving here, I've lost a total of 41 pounds! I still have 40-50 to go and I'll reach my target. More than anything I just want to take really good care of my body and help take some stress off. I feel so upset that the source of my dystonia symptoms and my nerve damage may be because of the stress put on my shoulders and neck over the years, and especially the lack of care of taking care of my body and even my face while playing at a high level. But of course when you're younger you think you're invincible, especially when things are going great and on cloud 9 with your performances, etc.

Anywhoo, I'm rambling! That's all the news I have for now. Next session is coming up on Monday, and we're going to do some myofascial release again, as well some more work on my back/shoulders/neck. Wish me luck!!!! I know I can overcome this!!!!