A muscle is a muscle is a muscle. Doesn’t matter if it’s a larger one you are very familiar with and often are aware of needing support like your neck or a less familiar muscle but equally important and linked to everyday functions like breathing such as your intercostals – they all are deserving and can benefit from bodywork!
I had a lightbulb moment last week when my bodyworker told me she could help release fascial tension around the muscles of respiration – and did – with cupping and lymphatic drainage. It felt great at the time but it was after she was done when the impact set in. I could FEEL the difference in my rib cage expansion during inhalation. My ribs were less constricted given the fascial adhesions she was able to release. This was done for both front, back, and side ribs, as well as upper chest and neck area. The changes were notable and truly eyeopening.
After reviewing the pictures I had her take (yes, we have that kind of relationship where I can ask her to please take pictures of my dysfunction), she told me you can actually see the line of tension through the ribs. This same tension is causing restriction of intercostal muscles that directly impact my ability to expand my ribcage as I breathe in. Pause to let that sink in.
Once I was able to comprehend this, I then started wondering what in the world is causing so much restriction in my ribcage? I’m a yogi and flexible in all the ways I can be! Evidently not.
One possible reason I was given is my sports bras. They are tight, and on purpose. I like feeling “kept in” – but I’m starting to rethink this! I spent a lot of time since puberty trying to make my whole body smaller – physically and emotionally. I didn’t want anything to take away from playing soccer as a youth, being able to wear tight clothes as a young adult and currently just wanting to run, move, be without feeling self-conscious. Has all of this contributed to the fascial adhesions surrounding my ribs? I’m betting it has.
The significance of this experience feels similar to when I finally was able to breathe out of my nose for the first time post-septoplasty, turbinate reduction and adenoidectomy at age 34. Both showed me a sensation, feeling, and function from within my body I had never had before. One that made me truly sit with what was happening, understanding there was a layer I had just uncovered that helped me live better, feel better, breathe better! And I wanted to know more about it.
My massage was on Friday and the following day I ran a 5K all with only breathing through my nose. Again, it was noticeably easier to take a deep breath and continue doing so for the duration of the race, which I’m contributing to both nasal breathing re-education, nasal unblocking exercises and a more flexible rib cage no longer bound from the fascial restrictions previously there.
Bodywork has been something I’ve slowly come to appreciate and know is crucial to whole body healing. Breathwork and meditation are only slivers of the pie when it comes to supporting and keeping our bodies healthy. Sleep, diet, environments, movements are also pieces. And of course, so it bodywork.
Bodywork can refer to a variety of things, including massage, cupping, craniosacral therapy (CST), acupuncture, lymphatic massage and so on. They all deal with soft tissue and muscles however. Pretty important stuff. If you’re in Greenville, SC, and need a beyond-experienced one, I’ve listed my provider below. Find those people that can help you, then follow their recommendations. We aren’t supposed to know everything. But we can find those who know what we do not.
Lauren Lane, LMBT – who did my cupping and previous intra-oral massage for TMD