Just as we all have certain patterns of actions and positions as we go through our daily activities, our bodies will have patterns of how they respond to those actions and positions. For most of us, strain patterns and symptoms will tend to appear more regularly on one side of our body than the other, whether that be left vs. right or front vs. back. When we self-treat, logically enough, we usually focus on the area of most discomfort. But sometimes our bodies can really benefit from switching our attention to the opposite areas when we self-treat, for several reasons.

First, the symptom may actually be a response to a restriction in the opposite area of the body. For example, the common upper-to-mid-back pain experienced by many people spending lots of time at a computer is often a strain/spasm response to a restricted upper chest . Although self-treatment directly in the symptomatic area may provide temporary relief, until the original restriction is released, the effects of that treatment won’t last for long. By treating the opposite side, we treat the restriction that is actually producing the compensating pattern that leads to our symptoms.

Second, sometimes the symptomatic area is simply too tender or painful for us to find any softening within our self-treatment. In that case, continuing to treat directly in that area will have minimal effect, and could potentially cause our bodies to tighten up further in response to discomfort. By moving further away from the most sensitive areas, we can begin to release the tension more easily. I like to describe it as clearing a pile of dirt that’s been dumped on your lawn –– you don’t climb all the way to the tip-top of the pile and start shoveling from there. Instead, you clear out the edges, and the top slides a little lower, and you move some more from the edges, and it slides a little lower, and eventually the whole thing is cleared away. This more gradual approach is often better-tolerated by the body.

So, how do you treat the opposite? Here are some ideas:
* If you always treat the right side try treating the same area on the left side.
* If the back side of your body has discomfort try treating the front of the body in that area.

If you commonly experience your symptoms in one specific area of your body, remember to take a little time to self-treat the opposite. You might be surprised at how well your body responds. If you have any questions, consult your therapist at your next session or make an appointment to get some ideas for specific self-treatment options for your personal situation.