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Massage for Muscle Tension and Muscle Injury
Massage - The great all over healer for the body, mind and spiritMassage treatments now available for muscle tension - Feel the benefits, come and try for yourself!
We all need a certain amount of muscle tension. Without it, we'd end up in a big heap on the floor. Muscle tone (residual muscle tension or tonus) is the continuous and passive, partial contraction of the muscles, or the muscle’s resistance to passive stretch during a resting state.
When muscles do work, such as lifting shopping out of the boot of the car, they quickly return to normal resting state, once you put the shopping down again. And that's how things are supposed to work for you, maintaining the body in a state of balance, capable and with potential. When you do some hard graft, like digging, painting the ceiling, washing the car by hand, chopping wood, your body can go well into its full range of movement, and even slightly into the end range of movement, we call "the elastic limit". This end range of movement is kept in reserve for when you need that extra push, that extra bit of effort.
When you push into and beyond your elastic limit, then you're in the realms of injury. This can mean injury to the muscle actual, the tendon, or the ligaments that keep joints together, or into the area of muscle and tendon where the two combine and merge from one type of cell into the other, as muscle (the elastic, stretchy bit) becomes tendon (the mooring rope).
Massage plays a fantastic role in recovery of muscle, ligament and tendon that has moved into and beyond it's elastic limit. However, despite the many benefits of massage, it's not supposed to replace regular medical care, such as an xray, surgery or plaster. So always make sure serious injuries are dealt with by a doctor or hospital and let them know you intend to finish your rehabilitation with massage and perhaps other complementary techniques, like an exercise program and stretching, or another type of bodywork that works for you.
Muscle tension is a common problem for people all over the world, because of the different things they go through in any standard day. Muscle tension can occur through work activities, play, major and minor accident and even during especially enthusiastic intimacy. Other causes can be poor posture, an unbalanced posture, undue physical stress, undue emotional stress, repetitive actions, bad lifting technique, saving yourself from a fall (by a yank or compression injury), or poor body mechanics.
It's not unusual for people to find they need to seek out ways to relieve muscle tension in the long and short term, whether this is due to illness, or not. I have used massage for a variety of disorders, including, but no limited to, fibromyalgia, MS, Chronic Fatigue (ME), osteoporosis, arthritis, cancer (yes, cancer), Parkinson's disease and lots more. Just because you have a condition that seems difficult to treat in other ways, don't underestimate the benefits of a regular massage in relieving many of the symptoms that go with these conditions.
One of the times we seem to suffer with muscle tension is when we have to be right, such as during an argument with a partner or spouse. This comes under the heading of emotional stress (unless things get thrown, then that's more like violence, or GBH, or something). Emotional stress is often synonymous with physical pain in the form of muscle tension, because the emotion has to come out somewhere. It's like a bolt of lightening, it has to find earth. Emotions usually settle in our weakest place, so if you have a weak back, you may find that unresolved tension in a relationship equates with tension in your back and an ache develops. Massage is brilliant for this type of pain.
What if I leave the muscle tension and just do nothing? Will it get better on it's own?
First, muscle tension is a semi-contraction of a muscle. It can remain like this for ages and ages. It may go on to develop into trigger points or even cramp, at which point it can be debilitating. Will it get better by itself? Sometimes cramp shocks the body into letting the tension go, but other times it just goes back to a dormant state (like the cold sore virus), until the conditions are right for it to shock you all over again. Occassionally it will subside on its own, but most often it will remain, sometimes for years, as an intermittent soreness, or a constant reminder.
How does massage relieve muscle tension?
Well, I don't know all the exact cellular processes that allow this to happen, but I know what I feel. When I 'feel' a tight spot of muscle, it feels like I would imagine a black hole would feel. Everything is drawn to a central point. Sometimes at the central point, there is a small ball of tissue, like a ball bearing. This is often said to be acidic deposit in the tissue. Because of the tightness of this tissue, there is little chance of blood and oxygen getting into the tissue to repair it, and so it can grow and expand by aggregation, in just the same way as you grew acid crystals in science class.
A side effect of rapid or strenuous exercise is high lactate levels due to a change in the burn process in the muscle, and an increase in the acidity of the muscle cells, along with disruptions of other metabolites. This creates a burning sensation in the muscles. Once the body slows down, sufficient oxygen becomes available through the blood and lactate reverts back to pyruvate (involving cellular energy exchange), allowing continued aerobic metabolism and energy for the body's recovery from the strenuous event. Sometimes this process remains incomplete due to damaged tissue, and we end up with contracted tissue we call 'trigger points'.
During massage, I find it beneficial to 'work' the trigger point with a finger, or two, and apply pressure, usually for around 30-60 seconds. During this time, the cells lose their adhesion to a central mass, you squeeze out any fluid, including water and blood, and temporarily starve the point of any oxygen. As I gradually let go the point, I release until I feel a strong pulse push through under my finger, and then let go. If there is no pulse, I apply pressure again for another 30 seconds and repeat. Once you feel a pulse, and the blood surges through the tissue, the temporary starvation of the point seems to have the effect of breaking down the acid and allowing it to be flushed away. After a minute, a re-examination of the point usually shows it to have gone and the tenderness to have vanished.
If you follow this kind of treatment with a hot bath, you have the best of both worlds, as the heat helps the muscles to relax and lengthen, allowing the blood to oxygenate the cells and flush them clean. This can be specially beneficial for muscular tension found in the neck and shoulders caused by, for example, long hours at a computer. Going to work the following day will be a much more palatable affair. So don't forget you office workers out there, you don't have to be an athlete to suffer with muscle tension. Muscle tension is tension from any cause and constantly holding your shoulders tight for hours at a time sat at a desk, will have the same detrimental effect as a burst of energy for a few minutes.
Always bear in mind that an ounce (or should it be gram?) of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Many studies now show that massage can be helpful for:
Massage doesn't have to be a luxury, though it is true, it should be luxurious. It is an investment in your short and long term health and wellbeing. More and more people are now discovering the health benefits of massage, which increases our quality of life immensely. Stress is now known to be one of the main contributors toward disease and illness in the body, yet massage can significantly counteract the effects stress has on the body, which makes it an ideal preventer of disease. If this idea resonates with you, I invite you to visit The Haven Healing Centre in Blagdon for a massage session. Appointments and a treatment price list are available by clicking here. I look forward to welcoming you soon. Phil.
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Note: DISCLAIMER: This information is not presented by a medical practitioner and is for educational and informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read.
It's a small investment in yourself, but could be a life-changing experience you will cherish forever.
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