Mind and body treatments to heal pain, stress, anxiety and trauma, and to help you feel healthier and happier.
Key Methods I work with
‘A traditional diagnosis highlights what is wrong with the body… but biologically-informed reasoning tells us that healing is almost always irresistible.’ – Dave Moen, physician.
I am qualified and insured as a ‘spiritual healer’, but if there was a term for a science-based healer that would more accurately describe my approach. This gentle healing method allows time for your system to settle and reorganise: when you meet with someone who is grounded, embodied, present and kind, your nervous system knows this on a deep, primal level. Your body and mind can start to relax, and old protective symptoms that are no longer needed begin to soften and dissolve. This is immensely beneficial. Add to this a heartfelt, negotiated, relational touch and we have a powerful recipe for healing. Together we can explore how to create a lasting and ultimately healthier and happier experience for you.
‘Pain, particularly chronic pain, is one of the worst experiences in life, but touch can help to relieve it by blocking the pain messages.’ – Prof Tiffany Field
Pleasing massage is inherently analgesic (anti-pain). No matter whether you choose a deep tissue massage, an aromatherapy massage with oils, a Thai massage, or a powerful combination of styles, massage is highly likely to produce beneficial effects on your stress levels as well as on chronic pain, immune and digestive system function, and reproductive health. I can tailor a treatment to your individual needs using a wide range of techniques. Treatments can be lighter or deeper depending on your preference, and can be given clothed or unclothed. Pregnancy massage is offered through comfortable clothing with plenty of support. Combining massage with positive neuroplasticity is one of my most requested and successful approaches to heal pain, stress and anxiety.
TRE® (Tension, Trauma and Stress Releasing Exercises)
‘Can TRE help with pain? The experience of the TRE community is a resounding yes.’ – Steve Haines, TRE College
David Berceli’s Tension Releasing Exercises are a remarkable tool to release chronic tension and anxiety. These simple exercises are suitable for most people, and the natural tremors can help with persistent pain, overwhelm and insomnia as well as ordinary day to day stresses and strains. I am a Certified TRE Provider and offer TRE for people with a wide range of health issues, including unresolved trauma, PTSD, neurological issues, depression, anxiety and chronic pain.
‘Internalizing positive experiences, pausing for one or two dozen seconds to sustain, open to, and absorb ordinary experiences of gratitude, accomplishment, or caring will literally change your brain over time. Yes, you have to do the work – but it’s a sweet job! And it takes only a few minutes a day.’ – Dr Rick Hanson
‘Neuroplasticity’ is the term for new connections being made in your nervous system. Research shows that good habits of thinking, feeling, moving and behaving promote beneficial, positive changes in the structure and function of your neurons: the better we feel, the more sensitised we become to feeling better. We can learn to get good at feeling good.
I received Professional Training in Positive Neuroplasticity from Dr Rick Hanson (author of ‘Buddha’s Brain: the Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love and Wisdom’) and I continue to study this simple but profound technique. The key aims of positive neuroplasticity are to learn how to take in more of the good, to build inner resources and resilience, and ultimately to change how your brain works in order to create a more lasting and fundamental sense of wellbeing.LEARN MORE
Useful Background and the Science
Whenever our systems perceive or predict danger, we have five important protective mechanisms. In the right amount, at the right time, these are helpful symptoms – not pathologies:
Pain: If you’ve just broken your leg, it’s usually helpful to get a clear and immediate pain signal so you don’t keep walking on it.
Inflammation: After an injury or infection all that boggy, puffy stuff is designed to protect your hurt body part, and mop up the damage.
Fatigue: Being forced to stop and rest can give your body and brain time to recuperate and heal.
Stress: Arousal motivates us to get out of the situation or do something to change it.
Dissociation: Sometimes checking out is the best or only thing we can do to protect ourselves.
However, often our systems are in overdrive, continuing to produce symptoms when we no longer need them. Tragically, they can (and very often do) grumble on for months and even years when they’re no longer useful. But with support, optimistic patience, and by learning new skills, we can soften and dissolve these overprotective symptoms.
Bioplasticity is our remarkable ability to regenerate and renew – even our bones are slowly reshaping themselves. Crucially for this work, we’re continually making new connections in our brains and nervous systems. We can learn to turbo-charge some of the changes we most want to experience by attending to the ongoing structure-building processes in our brains and bodies.
In recent years evidence from pain science – and neuroscience in particular – has revolutionised our understanding of how to create more health and heal ongoing, chronic patterns of discomfort and distress. The findings are hugely hopeful, wonderful and surprising. They may change your ideas about what’s causing your discomfort, and what may help. My own bodywork practice has been transformed and remains deeply informed by the evidence from this research.
So what can we do?
‘Top down’ approaches
Our brains can’t directly see, hear, or feel either the world around us or our tissues. They’re sitting there in the dark, interpreting nerve signals as best they can, based on all the information they’re getting from our thoughts, our bodies and the outside world. Crucially, this includes all the memories and expectations we have of what might be true. How we attend to our thoughts, feelings and emotions plays an essential part in creating greater wellbeing.
Amazingly, experiences of awe, wonder, social connection and love have been shown to help switch off over-protective danger messages. Being in nature; learning new things that interest you; laughter and play; good nutrition and sleep, and moving in varied, natural and mindful ways are all great resources too.
The more you learn how to feed your brain positive, pleasing information and sensory experiences, the more you can sensitise your brain to the good stuff and help to consolidate it in your long-term memory. You could call this positive neuroplasticity.
When your brain contains lots of evidence of safety and contentment, it will activate fewer of those overprotective mechanisms, and more of the ‘good news’ patterns and associations. Over time, our systems can learn how to feel better. This affects not just our nervous system, but also boosts your immune and hormonal systems too.
‘Body up’ approaches
Most of the signals our brains are receiving are coming up from our bodies, and the older brain parts like to be communicated with in primitive ways, through soothing sensations such as touch and other comforting feelings. This ‘felt’ good stuff can be registered by brain parts that are even older in evolutionary terms than sight or sound. It goes deep!
In fact, most of the signals coming up from our bodies are telling us ‘all is well’ most of the time. We just need to find ways to tune into those positive messages. The richer, more consistent and well-mapped our subjective experience of our body is, the better.
It does take quite a lot of repeated effort to change overprotective habits in the older parts of our brains, because they’re less plastic, less malleable, than the parts that evolved later, but it can be done. Anxiety in particular can take a good bit of time and effort to dial down. Letting those pure, primitive charges release in a safe, contained environment with another supportive human may well be a crucial part of helping everything to re-set.
Getting in touch with subtle sensations in your body, such as the movements caused by your breathing, the pulsing of your blood, the tingling of nervous system activity and the dilation of your capillaries, is called interoception. Our brains respond really well to lots of nourishing interoception; it can have enormous benefits for general wellbeing, including less pain and better connections to other human and non-human animals. People who can feel their own bodies well have more empathy for others.
We need regular doses of these relaxed, contented sensations that really sink in before we can ‘unlearn’ fight, flight or freeze reactions and other uncomfortable protective habits that we don’t need any more. We don’t just want to clear the old, overactive protective mechanisms like fear and anxiety, we also want to create rich, new, positive emotional tones. I can work with you to help you enhance and turn up the volume on all the good stuff inside you!
Our brains create patterns, which inform our physical and emotional perceptions and experiences. We can deliberately change these patterns to create more well-being in our bodies and minds. Over time, with practice, our memory systems can get better and better at registering positive experiences and laying down a happier emotional tone.
Feeling better involves a process of learning and repetition that takes regular, skilful practice. If we want our good experiences to make our brains and bodies happier in the longer term, we need to commit to ongoing self-training.
Think of yourself as a songbird – they lay down new neural pathways whenever they learn a new song. Be patient and persistent. Over time, you’ll begin to commit your internal experiences of well-being – no matter how small, fleeting or exceptional they are to start with – to long term memory, until your new ‘song’ of basic, underlying wellbeing plays effortlessly, no matter what else is going on in your life.
With acknowledgement and gratitude to neuropsychologist Dr Rick Hanson for his teachings on positive neuroplasticity; to Professors Lorimer Moseley and David Butler for their work on persistent pain; to Steve Haines for helping me understand the physiology of trauma and the true transformational power of touch; to Katy Bowman for nutritious biomechanics, to Ralf Marzen for so much embodied skill and grace, and to all my wonderful clients whose courage and openness have inspired me to keep on moving, learning and playing.
Spike is a real talent in her field, and the work we did has been hugely beneficial to me. She is a skilled practitioner, I can’t recommend her highly enough.
Spike is very in tune with the body and nervous system, and also has such a depth of understanding around the brain, mental health and how it all links with the body in a way that I have not experienced with other practitioners
I was in so much pain with my back when I went to see Spike. She did an amazing treatment and I felt so much better afterwards. So relieved and grateful; highly recommended.