Clinical Relevance and Notes on Treatment of the Phenomena of Blocked Heart Chi in Physical Therapy
Every client presenting for treatment will be affected by "The Heart Story" to some degree. This is a little known and poorly understood condition causing physical symptoms through the upper left region of the chest, left shoulder, neck and cranium. This is caused by emotion blocking the flow of Heart energy. This should be read in conjunction with:
The condition is not ideal but most of us adapt and manage just fine. While a therapist with well developed palpation and observation skills will detect the signs, the individual is usually not aware of the condition. There may be times of emotional crisis where the symptoms are more prominent but they eventually pass. Typically, from the therapist's perspective, it is part of the story of what is going on at the left shoulder. Pec Major will be thick, frequently having a gristle like quality. There may be tenderness or pain on palpation. By contrast the right side of the chest will be thin, loose and pain free. On the left, Pec Minor and the Scalenes in particular are affected, being subtly or not so subtly, tight compared to the right. The Trapezius at its insertion to the left Scapula at upper part of the medial border will have the same thickening as exhibited at Pec Major. The entire shoulder may exhibit rigidity and prove recalcitrant to release. Spacing between the Clavicle and Mandible will be closer on the left.
Early in my practice I thought I was uncoordinated being unable to easily massage through the left side...my hand not fitting in where it was gliding easily through on the right...the heel of my hand obstructed by the jaw while. It was several years before I realised it was not me being uncoordinated but they were all tight on the left side.
From the Craniosacral Therapist perspective, amplitude of the Cranial Rhythm on the left side is often smaller than the right...feeling to be a quarter, a third, or a half of that on the right side. The left side of the cranium feels rigid in comparison to the right.
Owing to the far ranging nature of the restrictions on the left side from chest, through shoulder, neck, ear and side of head, physical release work commencing in Pec Major midway between the sternum and the nipple followed by a deep Shoulder Rx protocol and Craniosacral Therapy will, at the very least, have a strong relaxation affect leaving the individual with an improved state of well being.
It is important to release Pec Major and clear the thickening and tightening over the heart before working neck and shoulder. Having done so you will find tightness in Pec Minor and the Scalenes receding immediately without any direct treatment necessary. The tightness and blockage in the chest over the heart is restricting energetic flow over the bone and through the tissues of the chest through to the side of the head. Until this primary blockage is released and energetic flow resumes, the secondary areas affected in shoulder, neck and head will not respond well to treatment. Craniosacral Therapists take note.
This physical treatment aids individuals prone to bouts of anxiety and worry. Lifting a weight off their chest. Feedback from clients who have undergone traumatic emotional disturbance in the past, clearing the thickening and tightening in the chest promoting the flow of Heart energy also frees blocked emotion facilitating resolution.
I have attracted criticism for not considering the option of counselling or psychiatric treatment for clients being affected by the Heart Story. Firstly, I am not a Councillor nor a Psychologist. I am really not even qualified to consider making such an assessment. To be frank, it is none of my business. My view is these cases are not instances of pathological depression...they are merely the normal ups and downs of everyday life.
Staying within my scope of practice as a Remedial Massage Therapist, treating the physical facilitates the emotional. This is not such a strange concept in massage therapy. As a result, chronic emotional blocks clear enabling the individual to deal with and get past long standing issues. It is not the focus of my work but a beneficial side effect.
On rare occasions there has been the client whose life is in the toilet and overwhelming symptoms of pain and suffering in arm, shoulder, neck and head are directly attributed to this phenomenon. Medico's will be scratching their heads unable to understand why there is so much pain...they’ve been scanned...nothing is broken. I have encountered this twice in practice to date. While physically clearing tightness through the chest is therapeutic and can clear the pain and discomfort being experienced, where the emotional issues have not been resolved the condition of pain and suffering will return in a matter of days or weeks.
Through my own journey dealing with grief and loss to suicide in the family, I came to understand the significance of emotion on the heart and physical body as described here. My healing experience, in part, was through massage therapy and energetic healing but it is worth noting TCM Herbal and Acupuncture treatment, Aromatherapy, meditation and physical training also played a role.