Upper body tension is something that plagues quite a number of people who roll through the clinic. There are quite a number of muscle groups that makeup the muscles of the upper body, the largest being the the lats and traps. Below are five factoids that you may not be aware of as they relate to these important muscles.
- Headaches— Many people suffering from chronic headaches are actually suffering from poor blood flow to and from the head. Tight lats and traps prevent the easy flow of blood causing it to stagnate in these muscles and head. One of the axioms of Chinese medicine is “Where there is stagnation, there is pain.” One of the causes of headaches is stagnation. Sometimes this stagnation originates from the lats and traps.
- Blood-sugar— Chronic tension in the lats and particularly the traps can be an indicator of blood-sugar issues, high or low. In Chinese medicine the muscles correspond to the functioning of the digestive system, including blood-sugar. Cramping and other forms of muscle maladies may be pointing to a larger and more serious metabolic issue
- Hand and Arm Issues— The nerves and vessels that nourish the limbs pass through the traps and lats. When the muscles are contracted, blood flow is constricted to the limbs, giving rise to issues that appear to be related to the limbs themselves but which are not.
- Memory— When blood stagnates in the head, then the brain cannot receive the fresh blood it needs to function properly. Memory will suffer. It is not uncommon that patients report feeling light headed after receiving treatment protocols that release the traps and reoxygenate the blood. Spongy squishiness in the head, a head that is sensitive to touch is indicative of poor blood circulating in the head. The problem is often with tight traps and lats.
- Nervous System Imbalance— Chronically stiff lats and traps can often point to a nervous system imbalance that indicates a nervous system that is in terms of effect stuck in the “on” position. Another common reference to this response is “fight or flight,” which points to the sympathetic nervous system as the culprit. Stress of this sort means that your body is having trouble recalibrating and may be accompanied by factors such as insomnia and adrenal fatigue.
Although acupuncture is the most recognized facet of Chinese medicine, its shining star is differential diagnosis: a medical framework that is capable of taking the signs that the body is giving and relating it to broader systemic factors for purposes of prevention and rebalancing at a level deeper than just at the sight of discomfort. Differential diagnosis allows for determining which interventions are most necessary and efficient in the course of treatment. For the lats and traps this may include cupping and herbs in addition to acupuncture.