I've put up with a knot in my neck which like a squatter, has moved in since 2012 and is refusing to budge. And on days when I'm really lucky, it spreads down to my lower back.
I'm not alone with my back grumbles - roughly half of Britain seems to be contending with back pain and the NHS spends about £1 billion on the condition.
I've reached the point where I'm willing to try anything, and that anything includes slightly unconventional therapies.
Physiotherapists and doctors may scoff at holistic therapy, but having reached a point where neither of the two have been able to help, I feel they aren’t in a position to judge.
I have an appointment due with Sophia Kupse who is a holistic therapist in Harley Street and calls herself the Muscle Whisperer.
She uses a mixture of her own technique and intuition, as well as Eastern therapies, founding a technique called the Langelloti Tri_Therapy or LT Therapy. What Sophia specialises in the theory that persistent back pain (when there isn’t an overwhelming physical reason) is usually formed by an emotional trigger, that keeps recurring until the cause of it goes away, or we find a better way of dealing with it.
Sophia has had her own personal journey to developing her technique – in her early twenties she was in a serious car accident that took nine months to recover from. Afterwards she found that she had back pain which would trigger whenever she was stressed, and so made a connection between the two.
After a consultation, Sophia asks me to lie down on her therapy bed where, she says, she’ll talk me through each step of the treatment.
She talks about blockages in the back, and when I ask her what this means, she says that it means where the muscles get quite tight, and rather than feeling like malleable pizza dough, it ends up feeling like how my back feels- “stale ciabatta”. (Thanks, Sophia).
Although I’m not quite sure about the science around this, one thing is for certain, and when the body produces excess cortisol as a result of being stressed, this converts into lactic acid, that then clings to the biggest muscle groups and crystallises. You back, of course, being a big muscle group.
One of the aspects of Eastern medicine in her technique, is in the belief that the right side of the back correlates to female energy in a person’s life, while the left correlates to the male.
As she feels the top of my back around the shoulders, she says “I think there’s some conflict with the women in your life, but it only seems like it has been there for a few months.”
When she gets to the left side, she manages to do something pretty spooky and picks up on something in my personal life that I’ve been worrying about for a while. “That is to do with male energy,” she says.
Although this sounds like a tarot reading for the back, it is incredible how intuitive Sophia is on picking up what my emotional triggers might be and how this relates to my back.
She works into the muscle with a warm volcanic stone, which helps to unlock the muscle a lot quicker, and then she finishes with a cold stone to seal the area.
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We then move on to the biggest area of woe: my neck. While probing around, Sophia finds a knot to the left of my skull and the minute she touches it, we both know at the same time that this has been the bugger at the cause of all my problems.
She uses a mixture of the hot and cold stones, and kneads deep into the side of my neck. Finishing off, she uses a deep heat cream that calms the area.
So what happens if the pain comes back?
“The pain, unfortunately, will come back if whatever was triggering the problem keeps happening or isn’t resolved.”
Therein lies the only problem I can see with the technique. Although my back is blissfully pain free for the next few days – and this is more than the physio managed – with the everyday, inevitable stresses of life, the pain does return.
The link between physical pain and mental troubles is a well-documented one, but hard to quantify. The facts I have to hand are that Sophia has made my back more comfortable than any physio, and she pin-pointed the moment when my troubles started, which was around the time I found out I had heart problems.
So in actual fact, what I have ended up with is so much more than I expected. Not only did I have a few wonderful pain-free days but it has given me more to think about in terms of stress and managing it in my life.