What is pain about?
Understanding what is happening in your body
Where does pain act within the body and the brain?
Tips on how you can help yourself at home
Positive effects of massage on painful joints and muscles
The benefits of stretching for pain relief
The function of pain in our body is simply to keep us safe.
To tell us when there is danger so we can remove ourselves from that danger; when we prick ourselves we react by pulling our finger away from the source of the pain.
The pain receptors in our skin send this message of danger along the pain nerves to our brain to be processed. It’s here that our particular response to pain is made to feel real to us. The way we perceive the pain is modified, reacted to according to the situation and environment in which we happen to be. The exact same pain stimulus will be perceived differently by different people according to the environment they are in.
This pain response can be perpetuated by these conditions being repeated and even anticipated; causing a heightened response.
Pain is often accompanied by tension around the area. The muscles tighten in response to the pain. This causes the muscles themselves and the area around to become congested; flow of the fluids which serve the muscles is restricted. This causes further trauma to the muscles and we have a viscous cycle which often leads to muscle spasm. Waste products from the cells build up and cause irritation, a bit like crystals, which in turn causes inflammation. It’s this inflammation which we perceive as pain in our muscles. In some cases, when pain is long term, it becomes chronic. You may be interested to read about the Gate Theory of pain.
Muscle spasm is caused when the flow of fluids has been completely closed off and the muscle can no longer relax. Relaxation of the muscles requires water around the proteins within the muscle fibres. This congestion is often stored within the muscle sheath and connective tissue surrounding the muscle.
See Self care and information about muscle pain and sprains
Stretching the body energises the muscles and allows greater flexibility.
What happens when we stretch?
Protein molecules are a spiral. This spiral needs to be a certain length to work best. New research has shown that it’s the water (Book: Gerald Pollack Cells, Gels and engines of life) which holds the protein molecules at the optimum length.
If water is not there the proteins cannot do their work. Muscle spasm is caused when the flow of fluids around each muscle cell (muscle fibre) has been completely closed off and the muscle can no longer relax. Relaxation of the muscles requires water around the proteins within the muscle fibres. When we stretch we allow the water back into the muscle fibres and thus around the proteins within.
This feeling of congestion is stored within the muscle sheath and connective tissue surrounding the muscle and this is the part which we are actually stretching and releasing.
As a massage therapist I always can tell when a person has been doing their stretches – it really does make a difference to your body.
How does cold/hot treatment help my body?
It’s about getting the right amount of fluids around each muscle cell (muscle fibre).
When we apply cold (1 minute of the gel ice pack out of the freezer or a pack of peas) we are sending the fluids deep into the muscle and surrounding tissue; taking that all important water to the cells.
Then, when we apply the hot (3 minutes of wheatie from the microwave or hot water bottle) the body responds by drawing the fluids back out to the surface again – bringing with it the toxins (waste products from cell respiration and metabolism) which have been trapped within the muscle. So this process is helping in 2 ways;
– taking the water deep into the thirsty tissues
- and bringing the rubbish out at the same time.
Repeat 5 times twice a day for real relief from pain associated with tension.
I begin the process - then you help yourself at home.
Work with me to understand the best way to understand and work with pain
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