Can stress and emotional trauma cause you physical pain?
Poor posture and wear and tear might not be the only thing creating those neck and back pains. Kate Whiting meets Sophia Kupse, aka 'The Muscle Whisperer', who believes stored emotions are also to blame.
Grr, you're such a pain in the neck! It's a phrase we're all familiar with - and it seems the idiom could be more accurate than we might realise.
"Whoever coined the phrase 'a pain in the neck' was absolutely right. Our partners can be a pain in the neck at times," says Sophia Kupse, the founder of a technique called Langellotti Tri-Therapy (LT therapy), whose fans include Jodie Kidd and Liv Tyler and which is based on the theory that your emotions are stored up in your muscles and cause pain in your back, shoulders and neck.
Back and neck pain is a big problem in Ireland, with 80pc of us suffering from it. The Research Impact initiative launched by the University of Limerick in 2014 stated that back pain accounts for 25pc of GP visits in Ireland. It is one of the most costly conditions to diagnose and treat and is costing the HSE and employers millions of euro every year.
But unless you've had an accident, or have a genetic condition like arthritis, it's not always obvious what's caused it.
Kupse believes the mind and body are so interconnected that painful memories can be translated directly into physical pain.
"When people get aches and pains, we generally look for a physical reason. But X-rays and scans don't show emotional pain," she says, explaining that 80pc of her clients are not suffering as a result of physical trauma, but rather from a build up of emotional stress sustained over a period of time.
"When the doctor says, 'I can't find anything wrong with you, so let's put it down to wear and tear', it's very frustrating, because I've got 15-year-olds and 25-year-olds, who are too young to get wear and tear.
"The human body is physically built to do endless hours of exercise. And the brain is a computer that's running your body, so whatever programme you're running in your head will create your physicality and wellbeing."
How does Langellotti Tri-Therapy work?
LT Therapy uses a combination of techniques to reset muscle memory in the neck, shoulders and back. After curing her mother's long-term back pain, Kupse, who has practices in Harley Street and Bradford, developed her method using a map, drawing on Eastern medicine's concept of yin and yang, that pinpoints which parts of the back are connected to which relationships and stressful events.
"The upper back is controlled by the conscious mind - your adult side - and the lower back is your subconscious brain - your inner child - and it's about showing people that your lower back, which is your foundations, your roots and your childhood, can hold onto negative memory in the muscle memory," says Kupse.
The right side represents female energy (ie relationships with women), while the left side is basically the men in your life.
Over the course of an hour, Kupse identifies areas of pain and the possible emotional causes by talking through the map, and uses a combination of manipulation, volcanic heat and ice marble (stones that are placed on painful spots) to remove negativity, restore positive energy to muscles and balance the mind and body.
"I can identify blockages in certain muscles which reflect a time period - whether they were bullied at school, had a very difficult childhood, or in their 20s, suffered personal loss.
"The mapping system allows me to identify key players in their life; is it a family problem, a partner, your job, financial pressure or a health scare that you had in the past. It will still be held in the muscle.
"I can also identify whether your mother or father was the person that caused you the most pain emotionally as a child, because I know exactly the location. And it happens right there on the bed, when I press those few points. It's quite a cathartic journey for a lot of people and the emotional connection they make, they can't quite believe it," she adds.
"As I unhook the muscle memory that's in their physical body, they release it in their emotional mind."
Weight of the world on your shoulders?
Just like 'a pain in the neck', there's a reason why we talk about carrying the weight of the world on our shoulders. Our increasingly stressful lives cause us physical pain.
Kupse explains: "We're always looking for something tangible to blame for our aches and pains: did I get out of bed funny? Did I have a heavy bag? Did I sit too long at the computer?
"If you're enjoying what you're doing in life, your body releases good endorphins, but when you're stressed or angry or upset, you're releasing a lot of adrenaline. That adrenaline, if you're not burning it off, will build up lactic acid deposits in the muscle and then they form knots, and those knots put pressure on the sensory nerves underneath and your brain says, 'We've got a pain here'."
Her clients come back for a check-up within four weeks of the initial treatment and, she says, 99pc of the time, they "never get the pain that they always had, I don't see the old problem again".
"You can have a massage," Kupse concludes, "but it won't reset muscle memory."
Desperately Seeking A Pain Free Self by Sophia Kupse is published by CreateSpace, priced £7.99 (Amazon.co.uk). For more information, visit www.themusclewhisperer.co.uk