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How To Relax Abdominal Muscles Tensed Up By Stress?

Giraffe

Member
Joined
Jun 20, 2015
Messages
3,531
Every time I get stressed, my upper abdominal muscles tenses up and it is painful and wreaking havoc on my digestion. I'm working on reducing the stress and also on healthy coping mechanisms (meditation etc.), but I have mixed results so far. Is there anything that might help the muscles to relax / loosen up?
You could try Jacobson relaxation technique. My experience is that it works like an early warning system. You very fast learn to notice the tension the moment it starts, instead off when it starts to become painful.

What is your head posture like? Is the neck relaxed? And the masseter?
 

ironfist

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Mar 22, 2022
Messages
125
Location
Chicago
Look into Trauma Release Exercises (TRE), that'll dig through the tension, particularly in the psoas which is a key driver in the stress -> tense gut -> ineffective digestion -> stress loop as it carries a lot of nerve activity from the hips to the spine. It's truly a remarkable feeling using these methods.

I think the holding pattern is tied to the freeze response in polyvagal theory, which TRE can help to release. Otherwise, mysofascial massage on the gut, and general stretching/use of a foam roller or a device like Pso-rite.

A physical intervention is ultimately going to shift things the most, nutrition and avoidance of irritants is helpful but if you've got unhelpful compensating muscular patterns, those patterns have to be reset, not just supported internally. That said, high dose epsom salt baths a few times a week can be really effective for some people.


Short video touching on trauma, tension and polyvagal theory from Stephen Porges


Good brief introduction to TRE by the creator, David Berceli


Video tutorial for TRE I use sometimes

Anyone have this 3rd video?
 

Aspekt

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Feb 4, 2014
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111
Anyone have this 3rd video?
It appears this one has been taken down, however there are a number of walk through videos on youtube. I used to use a sheet of paper with the sequence that I transcribed from one of the TRE ebooks and memorised. As a side note: I think it's helpful to think of TRE in several phases as it really is quite a unique body phenomena compared with other 'exercises'.

Stretching/Fatiguing muscles - This movements in this stage are common to lots of different basic movement interventions but aren't particularly special. It's the continuation of muscle work to induce the wobbly exerted state where the muscle starts to tremor from extertion/fatigue that is the interesting part. Athletic people will need to do more reps or extended duration of the stretches/holds as their muscles will fatigue less easily. Some people will not tremor much at all their first time or few times, but over time the response will emerge.

Allowing tremors initial phase - This is where, once the floor sequence begins, you allow your knees to relax while holding them above the ground with your feet on the floor. In this stage, the tremors are happening gently, but you're allowing yourself to wobble to allow more tremors to trigger. One trick to make the tremors move further up your back is to put a very thin pillow or a few folds of a blanket under your lumbar spine, to fully connect your back with the ground.

Deep tremor phase - After some time tremoring, the tremors will deepen and the body feels like it's vibrating while tremors are happening completely of their own accord. Speaking personally, this is accompanied by a sense of peace and contentment, with warm tingles and a feeling of bodily wholeness. Body load/ache dissapates and senses heighten. The interesting thing about this is it's not boring at all - as if somehow there's a sense of helpful processes happening holding your attention even if you're not thinking about specific things. It reminds me of the subtle feeling of expression when painting or playing music where different parts of the mind are brought to the fore and verbal thinking can temporarily cease.

Chill out phase - The restorative effect of tremoring has a limit, in that the body does need to rest after a time. It's generally best not to do more than 30 minutes of continuous tremoring, just stop when you start to feel tired by it. You'll know by the feeling. It's good to lie on the floor (or do childs pose) for at least 5 minutes settle what is quite an energy intensive process when you cease tremoring. Having some food and drink after is usually very pleasant, as the autonomic nervous system balancing effect allows food to smell and taste better and to make the process of digestion less inhibited. The first few times I did TRE I felt very sleepy afterwards and had some very restorative peaceful naps. TRE seems to have a striking effect on quality of life and reduces the subjective discomfort/triggering of trauma, replacing it with a feeling of deep autonomic balance. Quite a strange and special phenomena
 

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