I have treated John for many years. Before he retired last year, he worked as a dentist and therefore, spent prolonged periods of time bending over his patients. John first started to see me for a knee injury aggravated by skiing and persistent upper back pain associated with his sustained posture at work. During our sessions together, we used to discuss the merits of meditation as a process for introspection and also for stress management. He attended a Zen Buddhist group that involved both sitting (Zazen) and walking meditation (Kinhin) and would practice when he could amongst his busy schedule.

Since John retired, he became more involved in his Zen Buddhist community and has begun to sit in Zazen for much longer periods. This change in activity and habits has now changed his musculoskeletal pain presentation. John came to see me a few months ago because although he had stopped working and his body felt better whilst being more active, participating in pilates, yoga and spin classes, his Zazen was causing him mid-back pain and his arms would become numb after twenty minutes of sitting.

I found that structures that make up the ‘thoracic outlet’ region in our body (1st rib, anterior scalenes, pectoral minor) were very tight and his thoracic spine was also very stiff. Following treatment of the thoracic outlet region, thoracic spine and neck, John’s symptoms decreased markedly and came on much later in his meditation. However, it was not until John finally succumbed to doing his therapeutic warm up exercises I instructed him to perform prior to his meditation, that his symptoms resolved.

I explained to John that just as we never perform physical activity without a good warm up, it is also beneficial to involve a ‘warm up’ before sitting. Be it prior to meditating or before sitting at a desk for long periods, therapeutic exercises can ultimately be the difference between less pain and no pain.

By Liz Astling – Elite Myotherapist