Muscle Pain

Commonly muscular pain is talked about when a person considers their pain to be a non serious pain. However muscle pain can be intense, constant, long lasting, and out of proportion with the severity of actual tissue damage.

One component of muscular injury is hypo-perfusion of blood. Anything that can cause a reduction of blood to the muscle can give rise to pain. This could be a magnesium to calcium ratio imbalance, a short term increase in muscle use, normal regeneration of muscle tissue (we break down and build muscle every day), exercise induced break down and build up of muscular tissue (over done it or DOMS), poor posture, or disuse atrophy (yes doing nothing can give rise to a pain experience!).

Mechanisms of Myofascial Pain were further elaborated in a recent paper (1). In which trigger points were talked about. I have worked to understand trigger points for the last 20 years, including seeing a paper written by an Orthopeadic Surgeon in a prominent Journal that trigger points do not exist. If I find a prominent point that triggers pain then I’ll call it a trigger point, controversially, even when no twitch response exists. Trigger points are well established in their pain referral. A quick Google and you’ll see the images of where muscles can refer their pain.

When looking to resolve muscular pain approaches of paracetamol, ibuprofen, codeine, capsaicin amongst others are all products to help you cover up the experience of having pain. A Chiropractor may be able to offer a muscle a way of not only resolving the cause of muscular dysfunction and hypo perfusion but also to aid the rehabilitation of training your muscles to ‘centrate’ around your joints. AKA Muscular Balance. If you believe you have muscular pain and it has lasted more than 3 days then consulting with a Chiropractor may be just what your body ordered. Before you get used to it and your symptoms die away anyway. Leaving you thinking that you’ve gotten over the issue yet future re-occurrences will inform you that you did not.

The question to ask yourself is when my muscle pain symptoms ‘settle down’ have I gotten used to it or have I healed it? The phenomenon is called ‘accommodation’ in Neurology. Accommodation is what happens when you are in a bad smell- you get used to it, and it is, as if the bad smell had gone away…

 

(1) Saleet-Jafri, M (2014). Mechanisms of Myofascial Pain, A Review Article. doi: 10.1155/2014/523924

Morning Stiffness..

Morning stiffness can change with age! The stiffness I refer to is of joints and muscles, the commonly accepted symptom of ageing, that doesn’t make sense from a purely chronological perspective.

Muscles and joints can become stiff for many reasons (see last post). One of those reasons is linked with the activity of the immune system. I’m sure being stiff and achy in muscles and joints during a bout of influenza is a common experience that most adults will have known at some point in their life. Here’s the science. When I become sick the autonomic nervous system up-regulates activating smooth muscles in fascia. As a consequence of the smooth muscle activity fascia restricts muscular activity preventing full range of joint movement. Stiffening fascia also produces TGF-B1, which increases T cells, a type of white blood cell, aka the soldiers of the immune system.

Immune system soldiers are mobilised during the defense to something in the (inner or outer) environment (perceived and/or real).

Your Chiropractor’s job, when you are under the weather, is to know the likely source of muscle and joint stiffness and to check your muscles and joints have returned to their most efficient normal once your ‘influenza’ or illness has passed. It is possible for your muscles and joints to stay stiff after your immune system has switched off the defense.

A Chiropractor can re-boot your muscular tone and your joint mechanics helping your muscles and joints to healthily communicate with your brain. Lessening the phenomenon where your muscles and joints learn to have a stiffer and stiffer normal over time. An accumulated progression or adaptation.

Yes there really is a muscular component to an immune response. Whilst your chiropractor can’t magically cure your illness they can help you with the muscle and joint component to what you are going through.

When Thought Becomes Physical

Thought has been described as neural activity in the human brain. All brain activity is not thought, just certain (brain) neuron interaction is considered individual thought. If thought is the interaction of nerves in the human brain, then when we change thinking patterns, we are also changing the way neurons interact in our central nervous system.

A particular type of thought; metaphorical thought is particularly influential over the interaction of brain neurons. When a person exclaims that their back has gone – where did it go? Normally the person’s back is exactly where it previously was, so what has changed? The metaphor of a back ‘going’ describes the human experience of having a body as seen by a human brain. An experience that relies upon the spinal communication from the body to our brain and confirmation from brain to body. The back can diminish or disappear from the map of the body in the brain. That aside… If I think my back is there then it is not, I will change the interaction of the neurons in my brain, about my back, giving the impression that my back has ‘gone’.

When I alter my metaphorical thought/ ideas/ perspectives I will change the chemicals at my nerve synapses. Chemicals are molecules and molecules are physical entities. Thus sustaining a change of chemistry in a physiological system will end up with a physical change first, in the type of molecules found at nerve synapses.

A change in molecular uptake in the brain will result in different neurons downstream becoming active. What fires together wires together. Thus we begin neuroplasticity; the changing of our brain’s ‘neural net’. A physical rewiring of the human brain over time.

In the human body it takes 4 months for people to learn new muscular co-ordination and unlearn their old pattern of muscular firing / activity. Physical change in musculature has been shown to occur in just 6 weeks from thought alone – no exercise or movement required! A change in muscle mass then must lead onto a change in muscular co-ordination, (Firing) as we continue along the same thought path.

If you enjoy the idea of facilitating a desired change in your body start with your thoughts about your body e.g. What does my body mean about me? Do I have a good body? Am I in a position of freedom in my life circumstances? Is my view of my body in anyway compatible with my relationship with food?…

Working through it…

When you are a can do-er working through discomfort can be a part of your life. Pushing the envelope to grow toward your potential is commendable and I thoroughly recommend it. When you do work through a discomfort (or a pain) you can psychologically move to a new normal; no problem. Psychologically we have no boundaries. Physically we do; the most obvious being your skin less obvious being dysafferentation.

Due to the lack of knowledge that humans have about a human body we humans can sometimes create more problems than we solve when we push through it once. When we push through it more than once we can accumulate (learn bad habits) errors. As we move with error we abnormally load our body tissues. Abnormal loading of body tissues leads to degeneration. Normally loaded tissues last a lifetime. If you are broadening your horizons your body might just thank you now for regularly taking it to Fascia First Chiropractic. Your psychology can thank you later as you enjoy your body for years longer. This is of course my opinion but here’s a little of the why:

  • The fascia of the human body talks to the brain telling it where and how your body is.
  • The superficial fascia is densely packed with pain fibres.
  • Fascia is the reason (not muscle tissue) why you get D.O.M.S. (delayed onset muscle soreness) after exercise.
  • Fascia has more free nerve endings in it than your eyes; so the potential for pain is very high.
  • Under abnormal loading fascia can grow in on itself creating an ‘in-growth’ of highly pain sensitive tissue. Perhaps how something seems to ‘go’ without due provocation.
  • The fascia is responsible for housing nerves. The nerve sheath is innervated by the nervi nervorum and could be the cause of ‘nerve’ pain. Fascia can also mimic muscle pain….
  • Increased adrenergic signalling in the fascia leads to a vasoconstriction of blood vessels slowing up nutrient delivery to your fascia. This could worsen an immune condition, a pain syndrome or a symptom that seems to be ‘stress related’.
  • Autonomic tone can change fascial stiffness; When you are stressed your autonomic tone will change as will the stiffness of your fascia (body). This stiffness needs to be balanced not just worked out.
  • The fascia feeds information into your insula nucleus in your limbic brain about the pH, temperature and ion content of your connective tissue. Your limbic system can alter your ability to handle stress, socially interact well, and alter your sensitivity to fear and pain.
  • An immune response can also stiffen your fascia through a marker known as TGF-B1. Think of how you might stiffen up and get achy when you have a bad bout of the flu. Yes it needs balancing out afterward. An autoimmune condition is when you are stuck in a constant immune response and an allergy is an immune response to a given irritant.

Fascia First Chiropractic is more than a quick click. Fascia is behind the rate at which you are currently stiffening (ageing) over time.

Source: Tozzi P. (2015) Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies 19 310-326.
Stroll under the Skin  A you tube video where you can see and learn more about fascia.

Neuroplasticity; how fast can I change..?

As humans we are driven by our nervous system, a system that facilitates an engagement with our environment and each other. The stimuli we receive from our genes and our environment via our nervous system molds us into the people we are, right now. Genes can be ‘changed’ by environmental neurological input called epi-genetic change. Our many bacterial cells, which outnumber our human cells 10 to 1 produce viruses in response to environmental stimuli (toxins). Whilst on the outside social interaction and our wider society teaches us to find our place and stay there for 30 years. Times are changing and people just do not have a job for life in the UK anymore. Yet finding our place is incoherent to our nervous system. We thrive on new experiences, problem solving, social connectivity (healthy relationships; including with ourselves). The industrial revolution gave us a division of labour tactic whilst stripping us of our individuality.

The human population was stable before the industrial revolution afterward however the population continues to rise. A continually rising population in the world is causing it’s own problems to solve but it is stimulating some change as people innovate their way into the market place. Who moved my cheese is a great economic guide to how people can have their jobs in a flux of constant change and thus so to must the individual which fosters neuroplasticity. In the case of becoming ill we have become stuck e.g. our inner processes and strategies have enabled us to get to our current position in life and when the external world changes the person doesn’t know they need to also change their inner world to suit reality. When we cannot match up the inner experience, with the outer reality then we will at some juncture in our nervous system go awry.

A constant trend of learning is helpful to continue the process of neuroplasticity as is also exercise. Inherently being ‘wired’ to seek a difference (or a newness) is therefore in our nature. At present however it is not in everyone’s behaviour. When we have not experienced a change for a while we can get ingrained in our ideas, behaviours, interactions and perceptions. We can actually feel a negative emotion when we encounter something in the outside world that is contrary to what we have become ingrained to except/expect. A negative emotion might be anxiety or disgust for example. Neurologically speaking we need the right input (the penny to drop) before we can move onto our next lilly pad or chapter of life. When neuroplasticity occurs our brain actually starts a process of re-wiring.

Changing your brain can occur instantaneously. Sounds easy doesn’t it… ?! Monkeys  (of Silver Springs) have been studied with regard to neuroplasticity and have demonstrated a re-organisation in their brain cells within 2 hours. Macaq monkeys, elsewhere, have also been studied for their neuroplastic ability and are 30 million years behind homo sapien sapien in development, meaning that being 30 million years more advanced we humans can change our brains for sure; faster than two hours.

In the Chiropractic literature adjustments of the cervical spine have been shown to cause a ‘re-organisation’ of the human brain. Learning a language has also been shown to foster neuroplasticity in the hearing acuity of an adult human.

Looking for variety, feeling many differences in life, experiences outside of the hum drum and a constant vigil on our self improvement are behaviours that can enable us to drive neuroplasticity in ourselves throughout our life. Exercise, nutrition, education and body work are all examples of how we might go about ensuring that we have a variety of neurological input into our nervous system throughout our life. When neuroplasticity stops we get stuck in our ways, have to have things a certain way and perhaps transition into behaving ‘old’. Staying young at heart is a colloquial way of keeping neuroplasticity happening in your life. Staying ‘young’ is beneficial to your health.

Mind over matter?

We know the hypothalamus (a part of the human brain) is highly plastic (changeable), in fact some say the most plastic part of the brain. The hypothalamus stimulates or inhibits hormones. Hormones secreted by the hypothalamus are able to alter the job of certain cells. Thus a chain of possible change within any and every human is present. When we stimulate the hypothalamus to produce particular hormones we learn automatically a default to produce them. One could say we get more used to being us.

We are actually rewarded in the brain with opiates when our regular ‘molecules of emotion’ are released. When we try another way (state of mind) we do not get a reward, why effort is required to change, why a feeling of being wrong comes with any change we try. Those that are guided by that inner feeling are shied away from change because it doesn’t ‘feel right’. Those who are in their head have a flurry of mixed thoughts, tangential ideas and not knowing for sure that their current action is the ‘correct one’. Those that are guided by how their body is; tend to get a difference in their body such as they do not feel good in their body, they are sluggish or they have transitory pains that aren’t usually there, for example.

For me the way the media reports upon ‘mind over matter’ can lead one falsely down a path of whenever I need I can control anything that comes. Like being a superhero. In the real world we cannot control everything. Monks who live on mountain tops in isolation for 30 years do not get to reach enlightenment. Really any mind over matter situation needs to be delineated from ‘pushing through it’ and to have a time frame added. For most people they do not have a spare 30 years to try it out to see for themselves!

Essentially we are human beings with many different ways to be (states of mind). We will find it easier to be different or to change whilst our nervous system is still growing (spinal columns complete in 4th decade of life). After this time the amount of effort required for change becomes increased as more energy is required to make a change e.g. rewire our brain. With every change thus comes the wobbly part big or small, short or long.

The icing on the cake of difficulty with change after 40 is the future psychology of human beings. Doing things in the future is easier than actually doing them. The future psychology of taking out credit is a great example of how we consider it less of a risk because I can pay it (do it) later. Whilst we need time to be human beings with meditation we also need time to be human doings with exercise. Both exercise and meditation have been shown to have an epi-genetic effect toward health. Next time you are considering making a change do not underestimate the amount of effort required, time required and energy required whilst also not forgetting to include the amount of euphoria and reward you will receive when you ‘make it there’.

For example a study was able to demonstrate that actual physical muscle growth was achieved over a 6 week period of imagining a gym programme; yes our minds can affect physical body tissues and no it is not an easy thing to add to your already busy life. Hence why no man is an island and we need help from others e.g. a chiropractor to help my body move better helping my body tissues last longer as a complimentary lifestyle choice to regular exercise and a healthy diet. Sometimes however issues of trust and of giving over control can get in the way of you getting off your own inner island and making a powerful healthful connection with another human being (in my opinion).

 

Fascia memory?!

when working with the body to get a message across body workers can often use didactic information which without prior knowledge, in detail, of a profession like Chiropractic, an outside of Chiropractic scientist may scorn at the turn of phrase used – e.g. fascia has memory or your emotions are stored in your fascia. Scorn away!

Due to the didactic information, as every educator on the planet will know, we need to tell lies to improve our communication, we need to express what isn’t true so that we may teach others what is true, to the level of their attention. Fascia is an extension of the skin between the muscles and the tendons, giving us a thicker skin or a second skin. An emotional trauma can affect the body: For example you are prone to anger bursts, anger is our emotion and kidney or stomach fascia is our targetted tissue.

Feeling the (usually right) kidney area and or the stomach area is easy to feel to a body worker trained in visceral manipulation. The left kidney in function is tied up in the reproductive system. How many of you will feel the difference of your visceral tissues from one day to the next?

The fascia is whitish in colour and thus has a poor blood supply, when a bout of anger hits the body tissue relative will tense, sometime we do not know our own strength and will break something when we are angry; the same happens to our fascia our muscular contraction or body contortion is so much that we create micro trauma to our tissues. Fascia will heal itself when we apply the correct forces across it. Once we have injured the fascia we will inherently move away from the tissues weakness and avoid applying forces that heal the body tissues naturally. This can lead to something as simple as oesophageal reflux, flank pain due to referred kidney pain without any physiological tests found positive or something a little more esoteric like have recurrent nightmares / terrors.

Thus the fascia does not heal and it seems as if the tissue has a memory as it does not change from the day you microtraumord it. The fascia looses it elasticity as part of applying a normal force across fascia is to stimulate the laying down of new ealstin and MG ion cross links. The micro movement nuance is missing from your body useage and the tissue is destined not to heal, leading ultimately to an ulcer formation, achalasis or perhaps needing hypertension medication or developing osteoporosis.

Simply noticing through a regime of working to get to know your body such as the chinese systems of qi gong allows us to be able to detect, as in get to know, the energy, the physical ease, your cognitive application and your balance of emotion within your body. Once we know these things we can regularly access information on them and know when they are not correct. Seeking the appriopriate helap of a body worker of of a psychotherapist when we need it. Utilising medication to cover up symptoms if you really need to, initially. Ultimately the problems or pain we face can be resolved before we get to pain. Pain tells you you are ignoring you… why then do we first reach for medication to cover up what we feel????

Tight Hamstrings

The classic example of somebody having a restriction in their flexibility and they feel it at the back of the legs is thought to mean tight hamstrings. Yet in a fascial model of the body the TFL muscle is actually under about twice the strain that the hamstring muscles are under during a straight leg raise. The most obvious place to consider changing would be the side of the leg in tight hamstrings and not the back of the leg where it is felt! The fascial connections of the thigh are complex and numerous; for example in clinical practice I have ‘worked’ on the adductor muscle of the lesser affected leg and gained 20-25 degrees of extra flexibility in a straight leg raise of the more affected leg.

Having the view that my problem is where I feel it is a difficult concept for most to let go of. Sometimes where you feel it does not need to be changed. Where you don’t feel it does! Having an in depth knowledge of anatomy and understanding human movement and how tissues interact within the human body is essential to truly get to the root of a musculoskeletal problem.

Training such as in a Chiropractic degree (undergraduate Masters) is ideal to start to see the root causes of a problem within the human body. When the human body is not able to change in a certain place, the body compensates and thus moves the symptom, yet the root cause is still the same; there is just a longer more complex chain of events that exist once a compensation occurs. Addressing the fascia before any adjustments is my strategy in clinical treatment. This way I am able to work through the layers of compensation until I find the root cause. Step one for you with tight hamstrings is to come to terms that the root cause is most likely (if you’ve had the problem for more than 5 days) somewhere else (in my opinion) than the back of your leg. Psychologically speaking if you keep on putting your problem to the back of your legs you will in fact keep a problem at the back of your legs! When seeking help from a Chiropractor it can be useful to look up the conditions that have evidence behind them.