Sep 22, 2022 | Blog | 0 comments

Tension and Pain in Muscles?

Pain can range from an inconvenient annoyance to a ruthless belligerent drain on your life source. Ranging from a constant “tooth-achey” feeling to sharp, catching, stabbing pain; muscular issues can be awful. Unfortunately, lots of these issues are mis-diagnosed. *gasp*

So, in order to look after ourselves more, we need to be educated – knowledge is power! But look no further, we are going to go through three types of muscular diagnosis that can come gradually and insidiously (not as a result of trauma). As a practitioner it is VERY important to understand the difference and get it right. Because it can mean the difference between feeling well and aggravating symptoms, causing flare ups and costing the patient (you) lots of money by coming back for bad treatment over and over again. So, if you want to be a wonderfully informed human being/patient, listen (read) up.

Hypertonicity and overstrain  is probably the most common cause of acute muscular pain. It can range from a slight cramp or niggling to feeling as if you’ve been shot and/or long lasting toothache (but not in your tooth..)

Hypertonicity (not to be confused with hypertonia – rigidity synonymous with damage to the central nervous system – but we’ll dig into that minefield another time!) is defined as abnormally high muscle tone. Basically, tight muscles. Put simply, they get tight from not being used properly, or enough: The waste products and inflammatory markers that are produced by the muscle contracting are not drained away due to poor blood circulation to the muscle. When a muscle is in this state, it doesn’t take much to anger it, and the you’re in struggle town…

The treatment for this would be to “release” the muscle. You do this by massage or other soft tissue techniques. Simple right? Unfortunately, being an osteopath or any other effective musclo-skeletal practitioner, nothing ever is.

As mentioned in previous blogs, the most important question in a diagnosis isn’t WHAT, but WHY!

WHY?! Because effective practise comes from looking holistically at a complex being WITH a diagnosis, how to get rid of it and how to stop it coming back – It’s not just a part of the anatomy that has “gone wrong”.

Getting back on track… muscular hypertonicity is all well and good, and relatively simple to solve now that you know that concept behind it. BUT WHY DOES IT HAPPEN?.

It happens due to lack of mobility, lack of change in movement patterns, lack of water or good nutrition, lack of proper relaxation. Seemingly impossible to get it right I hear you exclaim. I agree.

In a nutshell, getting different movement through your body to what you are used to is essential to pain free living. If you sit at a desk all day, then stretch, lean back, extend, open out your chest, breath from your tummy. Something like yoga and or pilates is fantastic. It gets everything moving, and stops stagnation – which after all is the root of most insidious symptoms. MAKE MORE TIME FOR MOVEMENT.

So with this in mind, we can now start to explore the more complicated muscular issues – tendonitis and tendonosis. The two get very mixed up and they shouldn’t.

Tendonitis is commonly diagnosed, usually in the achilles tendon, one of the rotator cuff muscles or with “golfers”/”tennis” elbow.

Tendonitis is the SUDDEN repeated overstraining of tensile force through the muscle, this causes micro-tears in the tendon of the muscle and therefore inflammation. This needs rest and time to heal. Treatment would be centred around promoting the healing process and not increasing inflammation levels as well as educating the patient on how best to promote the healing process with exercises and mitigation of symptoms.

Tendonosis on the other hand, is a much slower gradual build up. Over-use  of the muscle without enough time to heal/recover causes the collagen in between the muscle fibres to degenerate, which in turns causes, you guessed it, Inflammation!

Naturally, the two need to be treated differently. One is trauma, the other is degeneration – you wouldn’t treat an arthritic joint the same as a ligament rupture would you? I should hope not…

The two need to be treated and approached differently in terms of short -term and long-term treatment/rehab. But due to the common denominator of inflammation, they both have a similar difference to mere hypertonicity.

Inflammation muddies the waters. It’s a factor that, if not considered, can make you feel as if the particular muscle group has been battered and not “released”. Furthermore, the wrong style of treatment just leads to more inflammation and you spend the week recovering from treatment that’s probably just made the issue worse: I’m sure there are more interesting things you’d rather spend money on than ineffective, endless treatment. A more imaginative mixture of lifestyle considerations, movement pattern analysis, exercises as well as hands-on treatment is needed.

So, mis-diagnosed tendonpathies can result in much more time, effort, money and pain being thrown at a problem that just needs a more specific approach – So, the more informed you are, the more you can help yourselves. I hope this helps: Go forth and be healthy.


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