You might know what it feels like to have a bit of a niggle or a pain in your muscles which all of a sudden becomes unbearable. Sometimes you might feel like you have no idea why it’s suddenly started hurting so much, you don’t have an injury, you take good care of yourself so what’s happening? Our bodies are amazing at carrying millions of processes to maintain homeostasis (which I call our happy place) but sometimes, things can go a bit haywire and we need to help our bodies get back to normal.
What’s happening in our happy muscles?
For our muscles to do what we want them to do (which is to move us), they need to carry out a chemical process to create energy. When muscles are working efficiently, they use carbohydrate and oxygen which creates energy, with carbon dioxide and water as waste products. The waste products get processed by the body – water is used elsewhere and we breathe the carbon dioxide out. With this process, our body is able to maintain a nice equilibrium and our muscles are happy and healthy.
What happens when things go a bit wrong?
Sometimes though, things get a bit messy and that equation changes. When we’ve overused our muscles they start using a different energy source. For overuse think: repetitive physical actions, constantly tensed muscles from stress, poor posture or lots of exercise without warming down and stretching. When this happens, muscles use their store of fat combined with oxygen to create energy, with lactic acid as a waste product. This causes a bit of a problem.
Lactic acid is sticky and congests the area, it restricts the oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange which leads to inefficient muscle function and can also act as an irritant to the muscle. The muscle might spasm, be unable to relax and it might be sore or hurt a little bit. Regular massage loosens up the lactic acid and enables the muscle to get back to the equilibrium where it can be happy and healthy and pain free.
What happens when things go really wrong?!
Once our muscles have become congested with lactic acid, over time, the circulation becomes poor and the muscle doesn’t get the oxygen or nutrients it needs to work properly. More inflammation builds up and the area becomes sore, the body then goes into action to try and repair it and delivers more chemicals to the area which become stuck in the muscle.
The muscle fibres become thicker and less elastic and are not able to work as we want them to, they get ‘stuck’ in this pattern and you may get either more pain, or a loss of sensation. This is when you’ll start to feel what you’d call a ‘knot’. When I feel an area like this it can be rock hard, stringy, gritty, nobbly and might make a twang or a pop when I massage it.
It’s somewhere in this process when you’ll get that unbearable pain that leads you to get help.
What else might affect your muscles?
Even if your muscles are healthy there are things which may affect how they feel, if they’re already sore then these factors might just be the icing on the cake in creating even more pain: not getting enough sleep; poor posture for everyday things like driving, computer and mouse use, looking at electronic devices; not getting enough gentle exercise or fresh air; eating the right foods; not getting regular massage.
How does massage help?
Massage therapists have a wealth of techniques which help unhappy muscles get back to their happy place. In very, very simple terms, the right touch helps disperse congested areas and enable the body to resume normal function again. This process can take time, and initially it may be quite sore, but over time the area will repair itself and be pain free.
One of the other ways massage can help is by creating awareness – what do you do that contributes to tense muscles? Once you know this, you’re able to make changes to your lifestyle that mean you shouldn’t get to that painful state again.
I’ve sat writing this with very tensed up shoulders, and even though I’ve been dropping them when I’ve noticed, I’m now going to spend ten minutes on the foam roller flushing out the waste products! If you’d like to know more, or you’re feeling the pain then give me a call on 07930 394522 or book in online.