Feed The Yogi
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Behold the Plexus… (plexi?)

For months now I’ve had horrible pain in the joints of my arms. It started last winter when I was biking an average of 25 miles a day between four different studios during an unusually cold and rainy winter in Portland… I thought it would get better when I pared down to one studio closer to home and brought my biking down to an average of 4 miles a day- which also gave me more time so I enrolled in some classes at PCC and started to spend a lot more time reading and writing… The joint pain continued. Then I thought maybe it was my yoga practice. My five to six times a week practice for the last few years had been some variation of Ashtanga or a similarly demanding variation of Vinyasa. So I completely stopped. I did yin and restorative, meditated on my synovial fluid, took up gentle walking, got Rolfed, got acupuncture, took supplements… And though other parts of my life definitely changed for the better, the joint pain continued.

Until this week.

First night here I get to my host’s home after driving from Ashland, my neck and arms are killing me. I sit down to dinner where someone mentions an affliction called ‘laptopitis’. “What?” This person (who, along with being a certified BMC practitioner is also a graphic designer and spends much of her time in front of the screen) explains to me that laptopitis is the result of… wait for it… spending too much time at the computer (or in similar types of positions that bring the arms forwards of the torso and cause a forward reaching of the head, like biking and driving.) The symptoms of laptopitis include neck pain, headaches, shoulder stiffness, back pain and pain through the arms and in the joints… “Ah ha!” I think… “That’s me!”

Then- second day of class we begin to learn about the brachial plexus. The brachial plexus is a network of nerve fibers that run from the lower cervical and first thoracic vertebrae down the length of the arm and into the hand and fingers. The Brachial plexus also innervates all the muscles of the limb as well as into the front and back chest, and some scapular and clavicle muscles.

Brachial_plexus_in_situ

Now, along with the joint pain I had been experiencing I also had this persistant ache underneath my left scapula that felt like it pulled in my left collarbone and radiated up into my neck. I had been seeing both chiropractors and massage therapists regularly who would be able to relieve the pain for a little while, but within a day or two it would be back. It made sense to me that what was causing my pain might not actually be originating at the muscle or bone level, but perhaps in the fascia that wrapped the bundles of nerves from C4 (where my neck pain was) into the subclavius (innervated from c4, c5 and c6) and into my arms and hands.It wasn’t an issue of my muscles- I stretch of every day and have them worked on regularly. It was a constant activation and pulling on the nerve fibers that ran from my neck and head into my shoulders, chest and arms. Obviously the muscles are affected, but focusing only on them will not fix the problem.

One aspect of BMC is that we spend a lot of time talking about cellular fluid, and the potential for movement and change that is present in fluid awareness. Nerve cells contain fluid, neurotransmitters pass through fluid, the delicate chemical balance that keeps that nervous system happy and efficient is maintained in fluid. We’re made of water… Ya know? So rather than pounding away on my muscles or trying to crack my bones I started to focus on the fluid that ran through my spine and the pathways from my spine through my upper limbs. We learned some very helpful techniques both hands-on and not, including the spinal roll down that began to aleve some of the ache. But it wasn’t until I went to see Sarah Rezny that things really changed. Sarah is a BMC graduate and a cranio-sacral therapist who has an office in the Mission district of San Francisco. I have known her for a few years now through school, but I had never had a session with her. If you’ve never had cranio-sacral therapy I’ll just tell you that it’s extremely subtle, sometimes it feels like nothing is happening.. But the effects are deep and long-lasting.

During our session I could feel Sarah working on the brachial plexus, the nerve cells themselves as well as their branches into my arms. At one point she spent a while focused on my brain stem and then another bit of time working on a ligament that runs down from the upper spine and diaphragm into the pelvis that apparently was a vein during embryological development. After 90 minutes I got up, able to breathe and hold my posture better than I have in years with no shoulder/collarbone pain and significantly less joint pain. It’s been about a week since our session and over 900 miles of driving, plus a gazillion hours on the computer. I can feel tension creeping back into my neck, but so far the effects of her treatment are still lasting!

 

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