Do You Have Tension You Don’t Know About?

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Do you grip your hands when you're stressed?Lina cut her teeth during her training working with climbers. She learned a lot about common injuries that climbers experience and why you shouldn’t work through pain. The most common experience she had though, was the climbers she worked on being surprised at some of the tension she found. Here she talks about her work with climbers and how massage can sometimes help you with muscle tension you don’t even know you have.

I have always been active (and I’m a bit competitive) and enjoyed taking on new challenges, so as a keen runner I’ve developed my fair share of injuries through overtraining – overworking tension I wasn’t aware of to the point of injury. I began having regular sports massages because I felt they helped with chronic injuries and post-training muscle soreness, and soon saw them as a vital part of my training regime.

Because of the benefits I experienced from regular massage therapy, I decided to re-train at the London School of Sports Massage. As part of the course, we were required to complete 100 practice sessions. Luckily, my partner is a rock climbing instructor and, unsurprisingly, an avid climber. Through him I was able to ‘set up shop’ in a local rock climbing centre once every couple of weeks.

Climbing can build up a lot of tension in the shoulders, arms and backClimbing is a difficult sport. The best climbing sessions are done with fresh arms, often hard to achieve with the level of practice required. Climbing is also an endurance sport, and most climbers could spend hours working on ‘problems’ on the wall.

Many climbers, although having regular niggles or injuries they were dealing with (like biceps tendonitis, rotator cuff injuries and lower back problems), also carry a lot of tension they aren’t aware of. While many of them had good stretching programmes or practised yoga regularly, you can’t fix what you don’t know needs help. They would often focus on their injury to the exclusion of other muscles. With busy lifestyles, racing to the centre after a long day at work, and wanting to head straight home to eat and get some sleep, checking their whole body for tension with a thorough routine was often neglected.

Many of the climbers saw me in conjunction with physiotherapy they were undergoing or following recovery from an injury. One in particular had injured his rotator cuff about 5-6 weeks before he came to me, and had completed a course of physio. He no longer felt a problem in his shoulder, but movement tests showed he still had limitations in the rotation in his shoulder. I worked specifically on the rotator cuff muscles related to rotation, and he was pleasantly surprised at the improvement in his range and ease of movement.

This was a common thread with the climbers I saw. Although many of them had specific issues like tendonitis, they often felt otherwise fine and were surprised when we came across a lot of tension in shoulders, chest, and back. They also commented that they felt lighter or had more ease of movement at the end of sessions, which helped their climbing and their day to day to life.

How This Applies to You

You may know that you have neck pain that comes and goes, or that sometimes your lower back hurts if you stand up after sitting for a long time. But you may be surprised at the level of tension your body is carrying in those areas. You may also find your forearms are tight and that your wrists could feel lighter, or that releasing muscles in your shoulder could make it feel easier to raise your arm over your head.

Because in every session we perform postural assessments and movement tests, we can often identify postural and muscle imbalances you might not be aware of. At the end of a session, you should come away with better self-awareness and knowledge about your body’s overall health. The importance of being aware of your body as a system is underlined, and you will hopefully have some tools to help self-manage more effectively.

Climbers tend to use the same muscles and overuse injuries can go undetected until a muscle strain is experienced – much like chronic poor posture at a desk, or a muscular imbalance in a repetitive sport like running. Regular sport and remedial massage therapy may allow you to become more aware of these issues before they become a serious problem.

What repetitive movements do you do that could be building up tension that you’re unaware of? Is there a stretch or an exercise you could be incorporating to counteract that? If you’re not sure, we would be happy to go through that with you in one of our tailored sessions.

Lina is at our low cost clinic in Leyton on Tuesdays and Thursdays and one Sunday a month until the end of December. You can book online for a session with her at, or by calling our 020 8185 7364 number Monday-Friday, 8-6 (or leave a message out of hours and we will get back to you as soon as we can).

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