Considering that muscle makes up seventy to eight-five percent of the body’s weight, it’s no wonder that most people think of bodywork as “muscle-work.” A better understanding of muscles should help you to appreciate further how important regular massage is to your muscles—and to your overall health!
How do muscles work? A simple answer is that muscles are composed of long, slender fibers that are capable of three things: they can shorten, lengthen or lock into place. Ideally, they function properly. When they don’t, you begin to experience tightness, or feel stiff, achy or sore.
When you consider that your muscles’ duties include maintaining structural stability and being responsible for virtually every movement of the body, from the minute regulation of an artery to extensive motions, it’s a wonder how efficiently they perform!
What causes muscular difficulties? Although we tend to think of a sore or strained muscle as an individual problem, all of your musculature is interconnected. This means that when you perceive a painful spot, other areas are involved to some degree. The most recognized causes for muscle problems include overuse or underuse, lack of proper nutrition and/or oxygen, build-up of toxins, and imbalances.
Imbalances are caused when a group of muscles includes certain muscles that currently are mismatched with their partners. For example, if you bend your arm and then straighten it, your biceps do much of the work to accomplish the first motion, while your triceps take on the job of straightening. If the biceps are proportionally stronger than the triceps (or vice versa), you have an imbalance that can cause you some distress.
If you have tight muscles, say in your back shoulder area, this tension can have an effect on the opposing muscles in the upper chest area. In some cases, you may be more aware of the opposing muscles than the muscles that are actually causing the discomfort.
Muscles can develop a state of constant tension for various reasons, including stressful life situations and learned patterns we all evolve as we age. Each of us has developed muscular habits throughout our lives—the way we sit or stand, perform tasks, etc. Add to this the fact we store our anxiety in our muscles—particularly in the neck and shoulder area—and most of us have many areas in need of attention.
Each muscle that is chronically tense is a muscle that is constantly working, even though it’s not doing any actual work. These muscles create a continuing cycle that diminishes blood flow to the area, produces toxins, depletes energy from other areas, and causes discomfort and eventual disuse.
Muscles receive their instructions via nerve impulses. These nerve connections are vital to the health of the muscle tissue; if the nerve supply is lost, the muscle begins to atrophy. The chronically tense muscle cycle discussed previously contributes to the toxicity of the related nerve cells, irritating them and furthering the muscular contractions. If left uninterrupted, this vicious cycle can wreak havoc with your body’s healthy function.
The above information should make it very clear to you how beneficial massage can be to your overall health. As each affected muscular area is worked on, a more normal function can be returned. When you make the commitment to get regular bodywork sessions, you can expect to see far better results, as more time can be spent improving your overall condition, instead of having to focus on easing the pain of chronically tense muscles.
Do your best to make regular bodywork sessions a normal part of your life and enjoy better muscle function—and feel the difference! See you soon.