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Understanding Clinical Somatic Movement – Addressing One-Sided Muscular Tension

Heidi Hadley is a Certified Clinical Somatic Educator & Somatic Movement teacher. She started her career in mainstream medicine in the field of Neurophysiology. In 2001, Heidi started her private clinical practice in health, wellbeing & movement.

Executive Contributor Heidi Hadley

One-sided muscular tension is a common issue many people face, often without realizing its root causes or how to effectively address it. This pattern of muscular tension can result from various factors such as habits, creating movements and postures predominantly on one side, to injuries or post-operative healing, whereby a person transfers their weight onto one side. These habits, injuries, and adaptations create a tightening along one side of the body and a rotation in the pelvis. It leads to imbalances that affect overall body function.

Woman having back pain

In this article, we'll explore how these factors contribute to one-sided muscle tension, its impact on eye muscle tension, neck pain, and headaches, and how clinical somatic movement, particularly pandiculation, can release these chronic muscular patterns of tension, and improve weight transfer and balance.

The origins of one-sided muscular tension

  1. Habits: Daily habits significantly influence muscular patterns of tension. Repetitive activities such as carrying a bag on one shoulder, favouring one side while sitting, or consistently using one hand for tasks can create asymmetrical muscle development and tension. Over time, these habits lead to persistent one-sided tension as the body adapts to these imbalanced movements.

  2. Injuries: Injuries often cause compensatory movements to avoid pain or further damage, leading to one-sided muscle tension. For example, an injury to the right leg might result in the body leaning more on the left leg, causing the left-side muscles to become overworked and tight. This compensatory behaviour or adaptation can persist long after the injury has healed, embedding the muscular pattern of tension, created from the brain-to-muscle communication. This becomes the ‘new normal.’

  3. Impact: Sudden impacts, such as falls or car accidents, can create acute muscle tension as the body instinctively tenses up to protect itself. This protective response can become chronic if the body does not properly reset, leading to long-term one-sided muscle tension. The impact locks the muscle tension ‘in time’ to when the event happened. Unless this changes, the muscular tension will remain in this pattern.

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The impact of one-sided tension on the body

One-sided muscle tension can have a ripple effect throughout the body, contributing to various issues:

  1. Eye muscle tension: Muscle imbalances can affect eye alignment and coordination, leading to increased strain and tension in the eye muscles. When the body posture becomes lop-sided, eye muscles must adjust, so the person is looking at the horizon balanced and straight. The reality is the eye muscles have adjusted to compensate for the lop-sidedness of the unbalanced posture. Ongoing muscle tension created from adaptations to the entire posture can result in symptoms such as headaches, neck pain, and eye fatigue.

  2. Neck pain: The neck is particularly vulnerable to imbalances caused by one-sided muscle tension. Overuse of one side can lead to uneven muscle development, causing strain and pain in the neck muscles. This tension often manifests as stiffness, headaches, nausea, limited range of movement, nerve entrapment, migraines, and chronic pain.

  3. Headaches: Tension headaches and migraines are common consequences of muscle imbalances. Tight muscles in the neck and shoulders can cause referred pain to the head, resulting in frequent headaches or migraines. These tension headaches or migraines are often persistent and can significantly impact daily life.

A man in the office experience headache

Pandiculation: The solution for releasing chronic muscle tension

Over the years, within Total Somatics, I have taught Clinical Somatic Movement. It offers an effective method for addressing one-sided muscle tension through a process called Pandiculation. Unlike traditional stretching, pandiculation involves a conscious contraction, slow release of muscles, and complete rest, helping to reset the nervous system and release chronic patterns of muscular tension.

How pandiculation works

  1. Awareness: The first step in pandiculation is becoming aware of the tension pattern. This involves sensing and identifying areas of chronic tightness.

  2. Contraction: Next, the muscle is consciously contracted, amplifying the tension. This step helps the brain become more aware of the tension.

  3. Slow Release: The muscle is then slowly and deliberately released, allowing the nervous system to recalibrate and recognize the new, relaxed state of the muscle.

  4. Complete Rest: This phase allows for full integration between the brain and body. It allows for synapses or neural connections to embed the movement pathways within the brain. The power of pausing and resting in this phase is crucial for allowing your nervous system to regulate and recalibrate.

For a detailed article on Pandiculation, click here.

Benefits of pandiculation

  1. Improved muscle balance: Pandiculation helps balance muscle tension across your body, reducing the asymmetry caused by habits, injuries, and adaptations. This balance can lead to better posture and healthy, efficient movement.

  2. Reduced pain: By addressing the root cause of chronic muscular tension, pandiculation can significantly reduce pain in your body, providing long-term relief from discomfort.

  3. Enhanced weight transfer: Releasing chronic tension improves your body's ability to transfer weight evenly. This balanced weight transfer is crucial for maintaining proper alignment and preventing further patterns of muscular tension.

To discover more health benefits of Pandiculation and Clinical Somatic Movement, click here.

One-sided muscle tension can have far-reaching effects on your body, contributing to eye muscle tension, neck pain, back pain, and headaches. Understanding the causes of this imbalance, whether from habits, injuries, or adapations, is the first step in addressing it. Within Total Somatics, I teach Clinical Somatic Movement, particularly through the technique of pandiculation, which offers a powerful solution for releasing chronic muscular tension and restoring balance. By incorporating pandiculation into your routine, you can improve muscle function, reduce pain, and achieve better overall body harmony.

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Heidi Hadley, Certified Clinical Somatic Educator

Heidi Hadley is a Certified Clinical Somatic Educator & Somatic Movement teacher. She started her career in mainstream medicine in the field of Neurophysiology. In 2001, Heidi started her private clinical practice in health, wellbeing & movement. She is the founder & creator of Total Somatics International®, an online membership designed to reduce pain, improve posture, increase mobility, develop mindfulness and allow you to resume or continue with the activities you love to do. She is the presenter of the podcast, Somatic Movement & Mindset. Delving into the fields of neuroscience, pain, mindset, mindfulness, habits and how to use your brain and body to create lasting healthy changes.



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