The practice of Kung Fu can really take its toll on the human body. I have strengthened and strained the muscles in my back for many years during my training. Slowly over time the muscles began to tighten up very much. At first it was minor discomfort and I was so used to being sore from training that I did not notice much. Over the years however it began taking its toll. The muscles in my back would tighten up from the training, stress with running the school, stress from my work, stress from life in general. Primarily top of my trapezius would tighten up so much that it would literally pull the vertebrae in my back severely out of alignment. This misalignment would result in pain in my back, shoulders and neck. This tightness would manifest in various ways in grinding of my neck when I would roll my head in any direction, or spasming of the muscles in between my shoulder blades. Within the last few months it had begun hurting more frequently and so severe that it was keeping me from normal activity. The muscles on the left side of the trapezius were seizing up so tightly that my shoulder hurt severely and my neck was being pulled forward and down toward the left shoulder causing an odd and painful hunch.
I finally decided that it was time to do something about my back problems and took some time to see a traditional Chinese doctor, Doctor Chen. As with any Chinese doctor he asked me what was the problem while examining my tongue and checking my pulse. I told him which muscles were giving me problems and showed him were I felt that several vertebrae were severely out of place. He hooked me up to a couple of electric therapy devices that send an electric current through diodes at specific points on the muscles causing them to contract. After two long sessions with these my muscles were loose and he was able to work on the affected muscles. His hands were very strong and he was able to penetrate into the deep muscle tissue where the muscles were knotted. When he was finished he applied some medicinal patches that he makes himself. These patches contain a mixture of herbs in a paste that when applied create warmth that helps to relax the muscle and allows medicine to be absorbed by the skin. After the first treatment I felt much better already. My neck moved freely and the tension was gone. He had me return in a few days. By this time the muscles had begun tightening up again but it was not as bad. We went through the same routine working on different areas of the muscle. Once the muscles are loose enough Doctor Chen will be able to pop my vertebrae back into place. After the second treatment I felt even better. The grinding that I used to have in my neck when I roll my head is gone. I feel more relaxed. I am able to sit with an upright posture naturally without felling as if I am forcing the posture or straining my lower back to maintain it. This helped me to realize that I carry all of my tension right between my shoulder blades. Now I am aware that I frequently hunch my shoulders lifting them up unnecessarily when doing many tasks. Now that I am aware I am consciously making an effort to take a deep breath and relax my shoulders whenever I feel the tension. My body has been so tight so long in that area that the muscles naturally attempt to return to that position which they feel is now correct, so I must make an effort to re-teach my muscles to make the relaxed posture their natural place. Hopefully by doing so I can help to prevent these types of injuries in the future.
With these injuries and treatments I have lately cut back a lot on my training. I still am busy with school administration, teaching, and work, but I am taking it easy with training so that my body can heal. I hope that my back problems can get resolved soon so that I may return with a renewed vigor to my training. There is a fine line between pushing the body past its limits to experience growth an pushing it so far that it becomes injured. Injury is worse because it prevents you from training and hampers progress. I pushed my back harder than it could take on several occasions and over time it added up and is now preventing me from training as I would like. It is an important lesson in recognizing the appropriate limits of the body and learning to not just listen to what your body is telling you but taking appropriate action when your body tells you that something is not right.