Tattoos and muscle inhibition
While the tattoo business is booming, it seems that many people are unaware of how tattoos can inhibit muscles and cause seemingly unrelated pain. I got my first tattoo aged 16, when the only people who were ‘inked’ were hairy bikers and my grandad (he had an old blurry tattoo from his army days which my Grandmother despised). My collection slowly grew, then David Beckham decided to copy my trend and the craze seems to have snowballed! It is now becoming rare to find a body that is as pure as the day it was born and remains unblemished by an artist’s needle.
I started working as a dancer when I was around 18. I joined the show Stomp in my late 20’s and enjoyed touring the world for a number of years. My great friend Troy and myself would kill time in each city we visited by perusing tattoo studios and collecting art like post cards to remind us of our travels and the incredible people we had met. One such week in Belgium we met an artist who had watched the show and he offered to work on both of us. 3 hours later I had 2 lovely pieces coming up over the side of my stomach and a lasting memory of the city.
Fast forward 12 years
For 10 years I have been living with Sacroiliac joint pain. It does not stop me moving any more, but it does limit me and I have to be careful. It slowly sneaked up on me, beginning in the front of my left hip before moving up into my shoulder and down into my knees. During my own personal study it has been noted that my SIJ is compressed, that I have muscle inhibition down my left leg and that my hip has signs of early wear and tear. Suddenly within the space of 2 weeks, two people discovered my tattoos have been having global consequences through out my body.
While studying a new modality called PDTR it was noted that the stretch receptors over my tattoo were feeding back distorted information to my brain and this was effecting the muscles around my hip. Similar relationships can be found in scars so I guess my mother’s first words when she saw my 16 year old arm “why would you want to disfigure yourself?” were correct.
PDTR provides direct treatment techniques to reset these relationships via a suitable stimulus to the area followed by a deep tendon reflex to reset it back to the brain (think of the patellar knee reflex that you get when you visit your doctor). Patellar tendon tapped, the strength in my leg returned almost immediately which, followed by some movement drills, left me feeling incredible.
The following week I was hanging out with Gary Ward and Chris Sritharan from Anatomy in Motion. These two chaps are the most incredible therapists and mentors I have ever had the good chance to work with. While assessing my neck rotation they discovered that some gentle drag to the robin tattooed on my right rib cage stopped my neck from being able to rotate to the left. It was as if I had been paralysed! Drag off and neck worked, drag back on and it froze. As it had previously been noted that my liver channel had been an issue nutritionally further exploration from a Chinese medicine perspective was undertaken by the talented James, and low and behold rotation returned. A little Feldenkrais work that evening integrated all the work together, and again I felt incredible.
The obvious conclusion is that choosing a tattoo is more important than just getting the right design. From personal experience I have witnessed their far reaching effects and to observe the journey has been fantastically interesting (as well as some what painful).
For me the more interesting conclusion is a more subtle one. In this world of new techniques and thought processes, there seems to be a growing trend for different modalities to wage war concerning how effective they are at getting people out of pain. The truth is that there is more in common between all these disciplines than there is difference. I am always blown away by how each discipline layers on top of the next and that the only true difference is not the body being viewed but the spectacles through which it is being observed. The more these different disciplines can collaborate the more the patient will benefit and ultimately that is what therapy is all about. Time for a group hug!