Sciatica Self-Care (Today’s Daily Presence)

I’ve been under so much mental stress that I’ve begun to lose track of my body state. I’ve noticed on and off for the past week that the outside of my right calf feels odd. When I tried to follow in a brief stretching video today, my entire leg began to cramp uncontrollably and go numb. The overall pattern of pain and discomfort suggests to me my sciatic nerve is irritated, possibly at multiple points. So, I spent my energy on finding instructions specific to soothing this area of my body.

This website had a few stretches I’d forgotten about. I found the sitting pigeon stretch to be the most accessible, as the forward pigeon stretch was what I was doing when the leg cramping and numbness flared up. I am also going to try some heat therapy and possibly even my TENS machine if I can get it charged. My body feels locked up in a way that makes me want to crank the unit up the whole way for maximum effect! If you have sciatic pain, what have you found to be helpful? What is your favorite stretch? What types of exercises or treatments work best?

Time for Warmth (Today’s Daily Presence)

Today’s card chose me more than I chose it! I’ve been having severe neck and upper back pain, which intensifies when I lay down to the point where I am yelling in pain at slight movements. Giving that this issue seems to be persisting, I decided I needed to slow down and spend some time attempting to soothe my neck muscles.

I am someone who is overheated much more often than I am cold, so turning to warmth as a solution to discomfort isn’t my first instinct. I found, though, in using an electric heating pad on my upper back and neck muscles, that this helped the spasms to relax more than the various prescription medications I’ve been taking for the last few days. The most ridiculous part of my muscle dysfunction is that I think my drawing might be the cause of it as it is on the same side as my dominant hand and seems to get worse after an illustration session. Hopefully I can also add in some scalene stretches to mitigate any problems. What activities do you notice causing muscle tension? Which areas of your body are the most affected? Which home interventions work best to release any spasms and reduce your pain?

Raise Your Toes (Today’s Daily Presence)

Today’s Daily Presence card invited awareness to my toes. I’ve managed to break more than one of them in recent years, so they could certainly use some TLC. I decided to spend some time conducting toe stretches.

In attempting the stretches I found, the simplest movement–placing my feet flat on the floor and reaching upward with my toes–seemed to help to adjust my toe posture. I discovered I do not have a lot of lateral mobility, especially in the second to last toe, which seems to be the one I’ve injured the most on both feet. I was tempted by the marble exercise but envisioned my dog trying to eat each one so I declined to pursue it.

I was intrigued by focusing solely on my toes as I haven’t done it before in terms of stretches, and I found that it challenged my body in a way it had not been before. I noticed some of my ankle and calf pain and tension unexpectedly releasing as I worked. I’ve lived so long with little awareness of my body, so I feel like I’m discovering new connections each time I slow down enough to attend to it. To whatever extent it exists, what is your relationship like with your toes? If you’ve had any injuries or loss of toe(s), what effect has it had on you? If it was accessible to you and you tried the toe stretches in the link, which one do you enjoy?

Shrugging My Shoulders (Today’s Daily Presence)

Every card I’ve pulled from my Daily Presence deck, which centers on meditation and relaxation related to a particular area of the body, has felt serendipitous in its connection to what I needed that day. It was no surprise, then, that today’s card focused on the shoulders, an area of my body that holds much of my anxiety. I chose to focus on a progressive muscle relaxation to ease my tension.

Whenever I’ve participated in progressive muscle relaxation, the area of my body I cannot wait to get to is my shoulders. Drawing them up to my ears and then releasing them provides more stress relief than the practice does for most parts of my body. The muscles in my shoulders are extremely taut and inflexible, so I often repeat the practice several times. When I tried it today, part of my upper spine cracked and shifted, indicating to me that attention to this area was sorely needed. What area(s) of your body might benefit from progressive muscle relaxation? How does your body respond to the practice?

Releasing Tension (Today’s Daily Presence)

I tried my new Daily Presence deck that I created! My first card was blank which made me laugh, then I drew the upper back card. Each card is designed to be an invitation into a mindfulness and/or mediation practice involving a particular area of the body. As I engaged with this practice today, I connected deeply with past traumas, so please bear that in mind as it is a part of the content below.

I carry much of my stress in my upper back and tend to round my shoulders which puts it out of alignment. I also have physical problems with my spine in this area, so it is frequently a source of pain and discomfort. I like the practice of focusing (when it is self-directed) and listening to what my body has to say to me, but I can’t hear much from my upper back as it feels locked and numb. I suspect it holds much of my trauma in a way.

In order to try to be more aware and in communication with this area of my body, I first used my Chirp wheel to stretch a bit (not an affiliate link). I immediately heard my spine release which felt amazing. I then did a few chest opening stretches and finally used a heating pad to soothe my tight muscles.

As I sit here with warmth and relaxation entering my upper back, I realize some of what my upper back is carrying is a felt sense of the weight of both my past traumas and losses, as well as an anticipation of everything still left to do. During this time of year, I feel especially over-burdened and exhausted as I react to the lack of sunlight and cold. As I stay with the feeling, I’m reminded of yoga poses that open the chest, throat and pelvis areas, and how vulnerable and scared they’ve made me as they bring traumatic memories of sexual abuse to the surface. It is much easier to hunch my shoulders over, draw into myself and close off from others in order to feel safe and protected and in order to carry everything myself instead of risking connection.

I’m smiling now because when I pulled the “upper back” card, I thought it would be the easiest one to start with because I know I have tension there, but I realize now it is one of my most challenging physical spaces to breathe into mindfully and to listen to because it holds in so much suffering. My goal is to give it more awareness, to breathe and lift myself up there instead of shrinking inward when I notice it hurting. What is your relationship like with your upper back? What self-care does it need today?