General Wellbeing - Muscular tension and over-use injuries
It's important to understand that muscles do not just 'go', or stop working, unless that is, there has been some impact, physical trauma or there's an underlying medical condition that causes them to. So when (and I have experienced this) you get up one morning and your back just seizes up, it is not something that your body has sprung upon you; it will be something that has been building up for a while, but up until that point you haven't really noticed.
The next question I often here from clients when trying to explain this, is 'How does this happen?'. The best explanation I have heard, and from my own experience it offers a reasonable clue to what is going on, is that it is down to the nervous system ignoring things. To explain further, your nerve endings are very good at 'tuning out' background noise and only focussing on the things that are important at that moment, for example:
When you get dressed in the morning, for a fraction of a second after you put your clothes on your nerve endings register the sensation and you know (aside from the fact you'll remember you did it) 'I'm wearing clothes' and then that feeling disappears. However, if you're body focussed on this for the whole day, you'd never get anything done, so the sensation is tuned out. The same happens with those little niggles, aches and pains. You may feel a little stiff or sore at some points during the day, however, if it's not important to what you are doing, your nervous system simply ignores the sensation...until that is it becomes to great to ignore. Unfortunately it seems the body is so good at ignoring things it is not until you've done some minor damage that the nervous system feels the need to shut down the affected area. The way it does this is through a muscle spasm (or series of them), at which point everything just seizes up... painfully...
The muscle spasms inconvenient as they may be, are actually very important. In short they are a preventative measure to ensure you do not do any further damage to your body.
The good news is that minor muscle damage heals very quickly (within 72 hours). The bad news is that our bodies can be very reluctant to release the spasm and allow us freedom of movement again, which is one of the reasons why soft tissue work and massage can be really beneficial, as it encourages the release and relaxation of the protective spasm.
Hot pack vs. cold pack on an injury
This is a topic I have discussed before but is especially relevant given this month's newsletter; the rule as when to use heat or cold to treat an injury is as follows:
Is it a recent/new pain (i.e. one that has not occurred before in that area)?
If the answer is 'yes' then use a cold pack*
*don't forget no more than 5 minutes on, then 5 minutes off to avoid freeze damage to the area
If the answer is 'no' then use a heat pack
To summarise, 'acute' injuries - i.e. those which are recent / new respond better to cold as it constricts the capillaries and reduces the swelling and therefore the pain. 'Chronic' injuries - i.e. those which flare up, or reoccur respond better to heat, as it helps soften the tissues increase circulation and get everything moving again.