You spend many hours a day tying your muscles into cramped and uncomfortable positions. At work, you are sitting at a computer for eight hours or more. Many people spend a lot of time in their cars which is hard on the low back, and throughout the day you are performing the numerous activities of an active modern life. Think about all of these thousands of hours contracting and tightening your muscles. When do you relax and stretch them? When do your muscles get a break?
Chronic muscle contraction causes slow, progressive muscle injury. The muscle tissue and adjacent joints will degenerate into conditions called myositis, fibrosis, and capsulitis. Localized areas of soreness and pain will develop into trigger points, points that trigger pain and muscle contraction. Pain is usually your first signal that something is wrong and should be a motivator to seek professional help.
We all know people, perhaps parents and your children who are in sports, who have chronic joint pain and/or limited movement in the neck, shoulders, or other areas. How do you think they got that way? They ignored the signs of chronic muscle contraction and treated the symptom of pain with aspirin, Advil, or Motrin rather than treating the cause, which is muscle contraction and soft tissue injury. 90% of your body is muscle and other soft tissue filled with blood. The two main ways to help that are seeing a deep tissue practitioner and moving your body yourself.
The key to unlocking these muscle knots is EXERCISE AND STRETCHING! My work alone won’t solve the problem. A general exercise which warms up the body and causes sweating will loosen tight muscles, improve their movement and blood circulation. Specific exercises that target your problem area, i.e. neck or shoulder, will effectively and progressively improve the health of that area, relieving pain and improve movement. Do not underrate exercise. It is often the most important therapy. Exercise will do what pain relievers, muscle relaxants, and anti-inflammatory drugs can never do and without the negative side effects.
Exercise is the only way to restore normal muscle function. No drug or surgery will ever do that for you. Your body is made to move and has an incredible and amazing capacity for regeneration when care and intelligence are applied to treatment. It all happens by moving the blood.
When you stretch, try not to hurry. When you stretch, exhale and relax, stretch the muscle and then breathe lightly as you hold the stretch. Do not stretch beyond a comfortable resistance. Overstretching only contracts the muscle even more. Do not force and do not overdo. Hold the stretch without bouncing for 30-60 seconds. Repeat several times.
Sometimes you have to hold a single stretch for several minutes or more in order to achieve the result of lengthening and relaxing a muscle. Stretch in a quiet, secure place with soft music playing if you wish. The best time of day to stretch is in the evening or afternoon. The most difficult time is in the morning after lying relatively inactive all night. Therapeutic stretching, stretching for a medical reason requires frequent periodic 5-15-minute stretching break throughout the day and evening. The more chronic the condition, the more frequent and longer the stretch breaks should be.
Stretching is about relaxing a muscle so that it will stretch naturally. Sometimes you have a mental habit you’re not aware of that is holding the tension in there. Try mindfulness with this.
Difficult problems with muscles may require moist heat applications to an area before stretching that area.
Exercise and stretching is often 75% of your recovery process. Time to get moving!