Most people think that pinball is a fun game. For me, it is triggering and reminiscent of the time I was in a car accident. My car was hit from behind, spun across a five-lane freeway in San Diego, and was hit multiple times by vehicles going 60+ mph, unable to stop before plummeting into me. I was 18 at the time. My bones were predominately developed but had not yet reached their full mass. My impressionable skeletal system and mental state on the road have never been the same thanks to severe whiplash and fear caused by the impact.
My body has been tighter than most people my age for almost half my life. While I was lucky enough to walk away from the scene nearly scratch-free (my car told a different story), the real physical damage set in over the following months and years as I officially entered adulthood. I suffer from chronic low back and hip pain, immobility in both of my rotator cuffs, and extreme neck and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) tightness, which often leads to great discomfort. I am also prone to migraine headaches and am no stranger to tinnitus.
All of this considered, I am constantly on the hunt for relief, and boy, am I grateful that my life’s path included landing a job at Rancho La Puerta, the most healing place I know. Last week, I was feeling extra tight after a few days of traveling, so I decided to try the intensive release treatment at the Villas Health Spa.
This treatment is very appropriately named. It is certainly not a typical massage used for relaxation, nor is it for the faint of heart. It is intense! It is also exactly what I needed. I am still feeling its benefits days after receiving the treatment as I write this.
To begin, my practitioner, Arturo, asked me a few questions about the locations and concentrations of soreness and tension in my body. Based on my responses, he decided that a myofascial trigger point therapy would be the best method to ease my chronic pain due to the presence of scar tissue. This method involves applying deep pressure to myofascial trigger points, which are places of hyperirritability within a taut band of muscle, for extended periods of time. Mine were prevalent in my upper back, shoulders, and neck.
He had me lie face down and allowed me to select my body oil from a variety of classic Ranch scents. I chose lavender since I was doing the treatment close to bedtime and wanted a scent that would help me relax. I have had trigger work done on my body before, which is often painful due to my extreme tightness, so I was mentally preparing for the worst.
Arturo spent nearly an hour drilling his elbows into my back in all the inflamed places. We both had to remember to breathe deeply. The sharp sensations in my back body helped me to stay present in each moment. There were moments I cringed, moments I teared up from the sensitivity and pressure, and moments when I nearly managed to fall asleep.
When he made it through the many myofascial trigger points on my back and neck, he had me flip over. There are trigger points below my collar bones, and several in my armpits, which certainly surprised me, so he worked on all of those. The long stretch I rewarded myself with when he was finished was divine.
I slept better than I have in some time after this treatment. Waking up is usually the stiffest part of my day, yet when I woke up in my casita the next day, my body felt looser than it has in the morning in years. My muscles felt a bit sore, almost like they were bruised even though no marks were visible, and when I moved them, I could tell that my bones were moving easier and further than they did the day before.
Trigger points are caused by trauma, either physical, mental, or both, which puts stress on muscle fibers. Mine were very inflamed after prolonged car travel because my body and mind still remember what happened to them. My challenge to myself, and to you, this month is to breathe into these points, give the muscles permission to relax, and let it all go. If, like me, you need a little assistance to get there, I highly recommend the intensive release treatment. With some effort, I can open myself to new possibilities and forgive the things that didn’t go quite as I’d planned. And I will.
Lavelle, Elizabeth Demers, William Lavelle, and Howard S. Smith. “Myofascial Trigger Points.” Anesthesiology Clinics, vol. 25, no. 4, December 2007, pp. 841-851, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1932227507000687
Alvarez, David J., and Pamela G. Rockwell. “Trigger Points: Diagnosis and Management.” American Family Physician, 15 Feb. 2022, https://www.aafp.org/pubs/afp/issues/2002/0215/p653.html?userguid=unk-1632566170543&condition=other&clientId=&entityId=203&clientSiteId=default&groupId=&tp=WEB_PORTAL.