Have you ever had someone press into your muscles and been astounded at how sore they are? You think, “But I felt fine!?”. This is something we see all too often in clinic – in particular with patients that come for regular maintenance sessions (as opposed to those that present with an injury). This type of presentation is typical of latent muscular tension – the type that is present within the muscles but hasn’t built to a point where you feel pain when moving the muscles or joints.
On the flip side, we also see many patients complaining of an underlying persistent pain or discomfort that has eventually become so severe they needed a professional’s opinion. The general thought was they hoped it would go away if they ignored it. Often this has followed a pattern of increasing episodes and intensity of discomfort that takes longer each time to settle.
What is causing this pain? Each presentation is highly individual and sometimes it is very obvious – a new runner with back of heel pain who may have irritated the Achilles tendon. Someone who exercises regularly but rarely stretches may have built up metabolic by-products such as enzymes and proteins that need clearing. Someone under a lot of stress or suffering with anxiety may be harbouring excess cortisol (the stress hormone) within the bloodstream and muscles. The physiological effect of this is that the body becomes hyper-stimulated, causing increased muscular tension, heightened pain perception and associated joint stiffness and headaches.
One of the many benefits of having regular musculo-skeletal maintenance treatments (whether that be sports massage, osteopathy or acupuncture) is that you can become aware of these imbalances that are building within the body, and combat them before they escalate into a more chronic state.
Here are some simple self-care practices that can help you stay on track with your musculo-skletal health and fitness goals:
1. Aim for regular maintenance sessions about every 3 months. If your job is particularly sedentary (office based) or very physical and repetitive (e.g painter/decorator) it is advisable to increase this to every 6-8 weeks to maintain optimum tissue health.
2. Exercise! Regular cardiovascular exercise is fantastic for improving blood circulation around the body which will oxygenate areas of the tissues that require it most.
3. Take up Pilates. This is an excellent way of getting to know how well your body works. A regular practiser of Pilates will be aware which poses he/she can comfortably do, so if you feel a pinch at your low back or your knee is feeling more stiff than usual, you know to get it checked out.
4. Get well acquainted with an ice and heat pack. These are invaluable! Immediate ice to an injury will reduce pain and inflammation and encourage healing. Regular application of a heat pack to a particularly tight area (e.g. trapezius – at the upper back) that you know is a recurring problem for you, will encourage blood flow reducing stiffness and discomfort.
And, as always, if you have any concerns of questions, please don’t hesitate to contact the team at Bridge to Health.