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Headaches and Posture Case History

Yesterday I had the pleasure of speaking with a small group of massage therapy students about one of my favorite topics -- how day-to-day "vibes" can manifest in the body as a health challenge. We spend a lot of time here talking about how to manage those "vibes," but I thought you might enjoy eavesdropping on one of the clearest cases I've ever run into that illustrates how they can make their way into the body and cause seemingly far-reaching symptoms.

Before we begin, a word about compensation. Your body is very smart. When it is served up a little insult (which happens a lot), it figures, "no big deal - I can handle this." And it sets up a compensation system. The compensation often turns into a chain of little bitty changes that your body figures it can deal with pretty easily. However eventually, if the insult goes on long enough without getting resolved, a weak link in the compensation chain sometimes shows up. Something that, despite its best efforts, your body actually can't deal with well.

We call that something a symptom.

"Karen's" symptom was chronic headaches. At age 50 (more or less), she'd been dealing with them for a good 30 years.

Karen (not her real name) was a patient in the research study (sponsored by Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit) I had the good fortune to participate in during the 1999-2000 season. As far as her posture, her main characteristics were 30 degrees of pelvic flexion (like the "soup bowl" that is your pelvic girdle is spilling soup out the front) -- normal is 10 degrees -- and a marked head forward posture. The head forward posture contributed to tight muscles along the back of her head, and that situation contributed to her headaches.

Now here's the thing. Unless we could clear up her pelvic flexion, we knew we wouldn't be able to get her head back over her body where it belonged. And that was essential if we were going to really address her headaches. We'd already tried the obvious methods of correcting a posture like hers and they hadn't worked -- and she'd been in for treatment already nearly a dozen times! It was obvious we had to try something different.

"Ok, I said to myself. What else is there?" Well, to make a long story short, we did some visceral massage on her organs and her pelvic alignment returned to normal. We loosened up her neck and her headaches improved dramatically. Karen was a very happy camper!

But puzzled.

"How did I get like this?" she asked.

Now that's one of my most favorite of questions. So of course I answered, "I don't know."

I didn't. But I had an idea.

"When you were a little kid, when you were nervous about something like a big test at school, were you the type to get a stomach ache?"

"Oh yeah," she said. "That's me exactly."

We talked for a few minutes and figured that the most likely scenario was that Karen's own personal way of dealing with the inevitable stressors and concerns of daily life involved getting tight in the tummy. Hardly a crime, but the likely precursor of her headache pattern.

Now for a lasting "cure," Karen would have to come up with a healthier way of dealing with stress. Right?

Of course! But I sincerely doubt she would have gotten the connection unless we'd gone through that little discovery exercise. In fact, she might have said (like I hear surprisingly often), "Stress? I don't have any stress!"

So let's propose another approach. You don't have any stress. Ok, fine, I'll buy it. But is there any little thing in your life that isn't going exactly the way you'd like it to? If so, then try a little backtracking and see where it leads. (Doesn't really matter what you label it, does it?)

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Elizabeth Eckert can help you explore how simple everyday choices create health — or undermine even the best of intentions. With a background that ranges from energy medicine to structural bodywork to developmental psychology, this "Stick-To-It Coach" has the experience to support you in creating the healthiest possible expression of — you!

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Elizabeth Eckert, Healthy Living & Wellness Coach

Elizabeth Eckert, PhD

I enjoy observing human nature and helping people be healthy. I'm author of Word Cures and creator of the WordCures.com healthy living website. (more)

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Note: The information and ideas offered here are personal opinions of a general nature. No opinion posted here constitutes medical advice, either general or personal. If you have a health concern, please consult with your medical doctor and follow his or her advice. The author disclaims responsibility for any misuse or misinterpretation of any opinion posted here.

(c) 2006-09 Elizabeth Eckert

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