Q: “… so do you work with muscles?

People ask me some really great questions sometimes, from which really interesting conversations arise.  Thank you!!

Someone asked me recently “… so do you work with muscles???”  and the answer was “yes, but…”

Shoulder | view towards armpit with ribs muscles major nerves arteries veins (cut) and slme lymph nodes

I’d been talking about how improving freedom in fascia of internal organs can have an overflow effect to muscles and joints.  If an internal organ is restricted, and treatment improves its fascia connections, blood and lymph flow, nerve supply and feedback to the brain, then the the muscles and joints that have been adapting to it will no longer need to adapt.  The effect is that to some degree the muscles will sort themselves out.

Remember anatomy 101 from high school biology “the job of the musculoskeletal system is to protect the internal organs” … to put this another way … your muscles and joints orient themselves and adapt in such a way as to minimise unhelpful mechanical strains on your vital (for life) structures (organs, brain, nerves, vessels) … never mind the limbs !!!  they’ll manage. It is because you have a far more direct and specific awareness of your muscles and joints than your internal organs, that it’s your muscles and joints where you feel aches and pains …

No-one calls me and says “I need help with lymphatic congestion that’s from my abdominal/pelvic surgery I had 10 years ago”.  Instead people call me and say “I need help with my back/hip/SIJ/knee  pain/stiffness that’s been bugging me for ages on and off and I don’t quite know why and it won’t go away”.

Diaphragm | contacts ribs lungs heart liver stomach (and aorta)

So if you were to tell me about pain in your shoulder, then I am interested in what your shoulder can show me.  A trigger point in your upper trapezius might be to do with an irritation of the accessory nerve that supplies it, which is the “backup singer” (accessory) to the vagus nerve (sensation and actions of most of your internal organs) … and then I am interested in where the bother to the vagus nerve is coming from and how I might improve that environment and reduce the irritation on the vagus nerve. Or a trigger point in your elbow extensors (“tennis elbow” “lateral epicondylitis”) might direct me to an irritation at the C4-5-6 levels of your neck, which also gives rise to your phrenic nerve that activates your diaphragm and brings information from organs connected to your diaphragm (lungs, heart, liver, stomach).

Shoulder | brachial artery and branches to shoulder

After treating what I am able to identify as the highest priority using your shoulder as a starting point, then I can return to the shoulder area, and see what is left to do for the joints and muscle locally.  It might still be that the remaining muscle pain and stiffness is to do with the way local fascia tension constricts nerves and vessels (blood and lymph) that travel between or through groups of muscles … free up the fascia around the nerves and vessels and then voila!! the muscles relax.  In summary, the muscles to a significant degree reorganise themselves (either relax or reactivate) in response to changing higher priority constraints, the constraints for which they are compensating in the first place.  

Shoulder | brachial artery and branches to shoulder

Then, whatever else you do that is directed towards your muscle-joint system — be it exercise, massage, stretching, relaxation, meditation other bodywork — will give you more of the benefits that you are looking for from that input.  

I hope this helps explain the paradigm shift in a way that makes sense — it’s more of a systems approach than a linear thinking or reductionist approach.  Linear thinking and reduction help to understand the separate pieces (“what happens if I pull this thing apart?”), whereas a systems approach helps to understand how things actually work once  you’ve put it back together and breathed life into it (think ecosystems).  “The map is not the territory” and “don’t shoot the messenger”


Thanks for listening.  Let me know if you have any other curious questions.