Sometimes a client will be part way through receiving a massage treatment and they may experience a tremor. Spasms may occur due to:-
- Magnesium deficiency
- Nerve issue
- Underlying medical condition/disability
- Accumulation of lactic acid in the muscle
- Overworking a tight muscle
But what about more noticeable tremors?
WHAT ARE TREMORS?
All mammals have the ability to release tension through shaking, as a primal response to stress, helping to maintain homeostasis. Unfortunately, social conditioning causes us to suppress and store stress, impacting on our physical and emotional health.
The central nervous system instinctively gets rid of excess tension through rapid muscle contraction and relaxation to calm the body during the stress response when the adrenal state is in overdrive. These tremors may come with sensations of heat or release spreading throughout the body. Due to social conditioning and culture we suppress tremors for fear of being seen as weak, which means that instead of the nervous system having a restorative effect on the body, it becomes dysfunctional and chronic pain patterns develop.
WHY DO TREMORS HAPPEN?
When we enter the fight or flight response the body feels under threat, and it may shake to release stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. This is a natural response of the autonomic nervous system which to enables us to deal with the threat so that we don’t remain in survival mode. These shakes are called neurogenic tremors, and are a product of a very complex neuroendocrine system, overcoming an over-active hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis in order to rebalance and release emotion.
Some of us lose this ability to re-calibrate our nervous system due to being taught to suppress our emotions from an early age, meaning that any emotional trauma is repressed within the muscles. These neurogenic tremors may then occur in the main area of tension. Each individual will have an individual tremor pattern determined by their past history and experiences, upbringing and patterns of tension. The location and type of tremor will be controlled by the brainstem. They may be large amplitude tremors with significant shaking, often due to a large amount of superficial tension being broken down, or they could be more of a vibration that moves through the body as it relaxes. This is why occasionally clients who do an extreme amount of exercise or who have massages that break down a lot of tension, may experience these tremors.
HOW DO TREMORS RETURN THE BODY TO A RELAXED STATE?
PTSD will also make us more prone to these neurogenic tremors because the body is stuck in an anticipatory stress response. Animals do not suffer with PTSD because they they shake to release trauma from their bodies. Human often have no escape from the stressful event so become frozen and develop PTSD, which means that excess energy is trapped in our bodies, contributing to chronic emotional and physical pain. The repeated stress cycle leads to high blood pressure, the formation of deposits in the arteries and changes in the brain leading to anxiety, depression, and addiction.
When activation of this tremor mechanism occurs in a safe and controlled environment, the body is able to rebalance itself as it releases patterns of deep tension, stress or trauma by tremoring. Consequently the nervous system calms.
Therapeutic neurogenic tremors move along the spine, releasing chronic tension and rejecting the fight or flight response. This instinctive response in the body doesn’t have to be suppressed in a therapeutic environment, and the brainstem will initiate a release of deep physical tension which pushes us into defensive postures.
During any release of trauma there may also be an intense emotional release, potentially with recollections of past trauma. If the person wants this to stop they can straighten the legs or roll onto their side.
THE IMPORTANCE OF THE NERVOUS SYSTEM TO HEALING?
The nervous system is constantly monitoring for threats and if the defence mechanisms in place to deal with these don’t work, we enter the freeze response, where our physiology overrides our psychology in order to survive. Once we feel safe healing can begin. In PTSD the warning signs become automated which can sometimes be beneficial but this makes it difficult to identify and treat the root causes of our stress, tension etc. Neurogenic tremors will address the trauma that we have not dealt with and release years worth of stored tension and stress.