abdominal massage and spasming diaphragms

If you’ve read the post about the Mount Famine race, you may remember I mentioned a spasming diaphragm. This is a bit of a wierd one which I first felt a good few years ago when I was running in Japan. (just for fun, I must hasten to add… trying to lose weight to get better at climbing)

Sometimes, as I was running, I would get a really really bad pain in the abdomen, on the right side, just below the ribs. I knew it wasn’t stitch- I’ve had that before, and it went pretty much as soon as I stopped running, only to return as soon as I started again. I then didn’t run for a few months, and when I went out for a run again, it didn’t hurt.
Didn’t think much of it until recently.

The most recent time I had that pain was in Mount Famine, when I was really pushing it, and the time before that was in a (fun) winter time trial over 5km with some of the guys down in Greenwich Tritons. I was fine for 4.75km, then I thought I’d up the pace- boom, within about 20metres I had that stabbing pain in the abdomen, and it didn’t go until I stopped. Mount Famine- it came, but by then, I figured out what it was.

Looking at the abdomen- the pain I was feeling was just under the ribs, on my right side. When I finished a hard run, it was slightly tender to touch- but the real issue was just to the left of the xiphoid process at the bottom of the sternum. That REALLY hurt, and, pressure there recreated the pain pattern that I was feeling during those all out aerobic efforts.
What could that be? What muscles attach there, and have bearing on breathing? The main one is the diaphragm- hence my suspicions of the spasming diaphragm. One might call this a Breathing Pattern Disorder- not one that is induced necessarily by bad posture, but perhaps one that is induced by breathing too hard(!)

So I sat (well, lay) down today to have a quick check around and see if I could sort it out. We studied abdominal massage during the course at NLSSM, and I have to say that I somewhat under-utilise it with my clients.
Using a soft touch, I worked my way around the area, noting that the area around the xiphoid process was tender and referring pain, especially under the ribs, my main abdominals felt tight, and the tissue between the ribs- the intercostals were really quite tender… all of this is probably because of a long period of exercise, and not getting enough massage to the muscles- hence the problems.
So I worked on the offending areas, working in the correct direction (so as not to disturb the peristaltic rhythms of the gut), feeling where there were adhesions between organs and muscular walls, and doing some Soft Tissue Release, especially on the diaphragm- that was pretty intense, and not without some discomfort.

However. I now feel much freer, more relaxed, and much more at ease with myself. It would seem that the phrase “a knotted stomach” is not just a metaphor, but also a physical condition which can cause anxiety and concern.
So, if you go to a massage therapist, don’t just expect a back rub- those soft tissues, organs and the like may well be in desperate need of some care. We are used to having our posterior musculature rubbed and soothed- so why not the anterior? It seems a little wierd, however, it is soothing, relaxing, and when done correctly, most rewarding.
I shall be using abdominal massage as a modality within a modality a lot more from now on.

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