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Muscle Pain, its cause and relief.

A muscle is able to perform work by using nutrients introduced by the bloodstream, a key element of which is an oxygen rich environment.

In a heavily worked muscle, glucose is being acted upon by pyruvic acid to release energy, oxygen is being pumped in to allow this to take place, the bloodstream removing waste products, the main one being lactic acid. Problems start when the oxygen supply is reduced, usually during the compacted part of the muscle cycle, (a muscle has an oxygen reserve of about six seconds). Then, in the oxygen depleted environment, the pyruvic acid turns into lactic acid, which no longer can be removed due to the restricted blood flow. The muscle starts to ache, which is a low-level pain, and is the body's early warning system. This is a simplified explanation, the reality is a lot more complex involving a chain of organic chemical processes known as the 'Kreb Cycle'. The disruption of which by the anaerobic state causes waste products such as carbon dioxide and negative hydrogen ions being produced in the muscle and lymph system. The resulting acidity further irritates nerve endings causing more muscular pain.

If the muscle is not allowed to recover there is a further build up of lactic acid, resulting in extreme pain in the form of cramp. Hopefully, rest and recuperation will allow the problem to be solved.

There will however, be occasions where lactic acid can be locked into the muscle. Lactic acid impacts on the blood flow and the nervous system within the muscle. The 'pinched' nerves give a weakened signal that is interpreted by the brain as an over-relaxed muscle. The 'tighten-up' signal then further cramps the muscle, producing more lactic acid, and locking the muscle into spasm.

However parts of the body do not act in isolation, and this muscle may have passing through it a blood supply to, or, from other muscles, as well as nerve paths to those muscles. These in turn will start to suffer and become tied into the original source. This is known as referred pain. We then have tight muscles distorting the skeletal system, resulting in poor posture, related aches and pains, a lowering of the person's spirits and a depleted immune system.

The means of restoring muscular function varies from, surgery, medicine in several forms, manipulation, or painkillers.

The first two of these require the ministrations of a medically qualified person, the latter two can be either administered by either oneself, or a trained therapist.

The intention of any therapy is to induce healing, or more correctly self-healing. Therapies fall into three categories, relaxation, manipulation, and pain relief, most are whole body, or holistic therapies.

Manipulative therapies fall into two categories, deep and sometimes painful, hence such comments as, 'If it isn't hurting it isn't working.' Or, 'no gain without pain.'

(Paradoxically this can give some benefit, for the induced pain causes the release of the body's highly effective painkillers, endorphins. These over-ride the original pain for varying lengths of time, and it is hoped that during this period the original locked-in system will self-release.)
The second group is the 'light touch' therapies, whose aim is to locate and release the cramped muscle without inducing further pain. The means of achieving this varies from therapy to therapy, some use oils, others general massage, others structured and precise techniques. The common factor is the relaxation and comfort induced, a healing process in itself.

A word of warning.

There is a great temptation to try as many therapies as possible. However, the brain and body can become confused, and it is possible to become locked into a condition of discomfort that is difficult to alleviate.

Evaluate say, two therapies, but leave at least 14 days between each, then decide on one for two to three months. It should be apparent before the end of this period that the therapy is giving lasting benefit.


©Roy Wilson - An Alternative Therapists Handbook.

The information shown is not intended as a substitute to medical advice from a GP or any other medical practitioner.

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