By Eoin Roe, Chiropratic
I want to talk about muscle strain in this article as many people often come into to me telling me they have muscle strain or a muscular problem when actually they have a neurological problem.
There are three main types of muscle injury: Strain (pulled muscle); Muscle Tear – very severe strain; Repetitive Strain.
These are quite different in nature and the symptoms that you feel. Strains and muscle tears are effectively the same just a difference in severity. They have similar clinical history – namely you will have done something that has caused it and you will remember the incident clearly because it is extremely painful and acute at the time of injury. There will often be swelling and heat in the area almost immediately after injury.
Repetitive strain injuries are slightly different, you may not be aware of what is causing the problem. A common example is tennis elbow, causing pain in the forearms, which can be caused by lots of activities from hammering, typing, playing guitar and I assume playing tennis but I can’t say I have too many tennis players coming in to me.
So why do I have lots of people coming into me complaining of a muscle issue?
The three main reasons are: Spinal misalignment; Nutritional deficiency; Interference in the sensory motor system.
Looking at this from a structural point of view if you have misalignment in your spine, your body is aware of this and will then adapt so that you can continue to function even if that is not at your optimum – in order to do that your body will use muscles to provide the support that you no longer have from your underlying structure of ligaments and bones. I would commonly find muscles on one side of the body are chronically tight and the opposite side is not working at all. By restoring the correct alignment we can restore the balance and the muscles will start to behave as they should – often instantly.
Two of the main nutrients involved in muscle function are calcium and magnesium. On a basic level, Calcium ions allow the muscle to contract and Magnesium ions help them to relax (that is why magnesium is recommended for people with muscle cramps). If you have a chronic shortage of these nutrients in your diet it can result in pain and discomfort. As it is a nutritional deficiency it often presents on both sides of the body, shoulders and hips being the most common.
Interference in the sensory motor system
One of the biggest causes of interference is body piercings. This is not something you will find in the mainstream literature and doesn’t necessarily affect everybody. It is a problem that I commonly find. One theory is that piercing the skin with metal can illicit a withdrawal reflex. To understand this we need to look at how muscles actually work. Many people assume that the use of your muscles is under direct control from your brain. This is not exactly true the correct functioning of all your muscles relies on a large amount of sensory information which in turn controls the ‘tone’ of your muscles. This is largely autonomic meaning that you don’t have to think about it. Finding the interference and removing it is the only way to deal with this problem.
It is not normal to be suffering from muscle pain even as you get older, and can be a sign that there is something wrong.
Muscle strains and tears will repair themselves over time. The common advice for treatment of these sorts of injuries is to use the acronym R.I.C.E standing for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation – whilst this is a well known treatment protocol, most people forget to Rest – which in my opinion is the most important. A minor strain may take two weeks to heel and more serious one a few months. Muscle tears are more serious and can take a long time to rehabilitate and surgery may be an option.
For true repetitive strain injuries the best thing is to stop doing what causes it, which is not always possible. I have been able to help some people with this sort of injury, those that I can’t often find relief with acupuncture.
So if you don’t know what has caused the muscle pain you are feeling and have not had a recent injury there is a good chance that I can help you resolve it.
If you have any questions or would like to make an appointment you can contact me on 087 958 2362.