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Chronic Holding Patterns - the pesky pain that won't go away.

Have you ever wondered why that pesky neck pain continues to return even after you’ve stretched, seen the chiropractor or even received a massage?

Well, there are many reasons, but one of the most common, is chronic tension. We all have chronic holding patterns. Holding patterns are the way we unconsciously hold our bodies. That’s why it feels comfortable to cross one leg over the other, but when we try to do the same motion with the other leg, it feels strange and uncomfortable. These holding patterns are due to sitting, standing, sleeping, moving the same way over and over, for an extended period.

Do you move the same way your parents moved, have some of the same ailments as your parents? Who do you think you mimicked when you were learning to walk? You may have even picked up some of their chronic holding patterns. Or you may unconsciously protect an old injury, or the recovery of an old injury has left you with a seemingly permanent limp. How about the way you sit at your desk, drive your car or lounge on the couch? You may be very active; chronic holding patterns don’t discriminate. How’s your gate when you run, what does it feel like those first moments after a long bike ride? The scenarios are endless. The fact is that we all have chronic holding patterns.

So, how does this relate to your neck pain and why it keeps coming back? Every day, we build tension, fortifying our chronic holding patterns. Day after day that tension builds, layer upon layer upon layer. Imagine building up a very dense layer of tension for 20 years, you go get a massage and you feel great for a few hours, maybe even days. Then the pain returns. You think, what’s the point of paying for a massage when it doesn’t even work?

Well, it does work, but it isn’t a quick fix. We are working to break down layers and layers of tension and depending on how long you’ve been building that tension, it might be pretty thick. So, you’ve built a significantly thick layer of tension over the past 20 years, you’ve now spent an hour with a massage therapist, so you should be fixed, right. Well, the problem is, you spent 175,200 hours building that tension. It might take more than 1 hour to break it down. The other problem is that you got off the table the same way you got on it and now you’re walking out the door, off to rebuild that armor of tension you wear on your back every day.

So, what are you supposed to do about it, you can’t just spend 24/7 on a massage table? We know, we are all in the same boat. The answer is consistency, and conscious movement. Start being more aware of your body in space and start changing things up. Cross the other leg over, sit in a different chair, set an alarm to take a lap around the office every half hour, shift your weight evenly on both feet, drive with your left arm instead of your right. Just start noticing your body, identifying your holding patterns. But switch it up frequently, we don’t want to exchange one pain for another.

The other thing you can do is to get massage on a regular basis and stay consistent. Ideally, you are receiving massage often enough that you arrive to your next session just as you are starting to become aware that you’re a little tight. But we know that may mean every day for a lot of you. So, start out once a week, once every two weeks, once every three weeks. Whatever you can afford, stay consistent. We aren’t here to cure you, we don’t have special powers, but what we can promise is that after a few months of consistency, you will feel better in your body.

We live in a world where its hard to find the time for self-care, but the truth is that the pain meds and surgeries aren’t helping. Sure, they may mask the pain for a while, but it will come back and when it does, it will be significantly worse. Massage is no longer a luxurious weekend getaway, it is a necessity to keep us moving.

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