I am often asked how does what I do help people.
They’ll say, “Hey Mike! How is it people end up on your massage table in the first place?”
“Oh!…and Mike, why massage? Or, sports massage? Or, what do you call it? Soft Tissue Therapy… how can soft tissue therapy help? What does it actually do?”
So I thought i would put together a couple of posts to help explain.
And it all starts with movement. Whether you are sat still at your desk, or up and about doing activities, muscles are being used. And if you overuse them, this can cause trauma to the muscles at a micro-level, and BINGO ! ….you can have what is known as overuse syndrome. For athletes, this can also be referred to as over-training syndrome (OTS).
Micro-trauma in a muscle can be caused by any number of activities (eg cycling, running, playing golf, sitting at a desk), but what all the reasons have in common is that they cause repetitive stress and strain to the muscle(s). And if a person doesn’t rest and look after the muscle(s) adequately between periods of the relevant activity, then the muscle is in danger of becoming overused, and this continual repetitive strain from the overuse will cause the micro-trauma. The overuse can be of the whole muscle, an individual muscle compartment, or of individual muscle fibres, and if not detected and treated, it can lead to a more complex and serious injury.
So for example, an office worker who has a job which involves sitting at a desk, looking at a computer screen and using a mouse, is performing continual repetitive movements, in particular with their arm that controls the mouse. Over time, these movements can cause excessive strain on specific muscle fibres in their neck and upper back, which will cause these fibres to weaken. Once weakened, they are more prone to tearing but at a microscopic level. As with an acute muscle strain, bleeding and swelling will occur, but because it is at microscopic level, the damage could go unnoticed. As the fibres tear, secondary tension will occur in the surrounding muscle fibres as they try to compensate for the damaged area while the person continues to work. Scar tissue begins to form over the torn fibres, and this reduces the normal elastic qualities and range of motion of the affected muscle(s). The person will probably experience some aching in the affected area, but with the inflammation being too small to cause any real pain they will continue to work.
It is at this point that the damage could develop into something more serious. As the person continues with the continual repetitive movements, greater effort is exerted on the damaged tissues to achieve the same level of normal working use due to the fact that the scar tissue is now preventing the muscle(s) from contracting and stretching as they would normally. As the damaged fibres no longer function to full capacity, the surrounding fibres start to work harder to make up for the deficiency. This is likely to then cause the cycle to repeat itself as these surrounding fibres become overused and more micro-trauma is caused. Any imbalance within part of the muscle can then cause the whole muscle to function inefficiently. This could then lead to further problems such as: the muscle tendon could become overstretched, or, the weakened muscles could cause postural changes to occur and movement patterns to alter which could lead to a whole chain effect of other problems throughout the musculoskeletal system.
If you take the above scenario and apply it to a runner, or any athlete really, you can see how easy it is for them to succumb. And for them, the unfortunate result can often be strained or torn muscles which will mean having to stop training, which could mean having to pull out of events. And the negative affects this could then have on a person’s mental/emotional well-being…..well, you get the picture.
So, if you are someone who cannot afford to be signed off from work and play, understanding and preventing the above is important! And this is where I come in….
In my next post, I will discuss how Soft Tissue Therapy can help with overuse syndrome.
Thanks for reading. I hope it makes sense. If you have any feedback, pop me an email via my ‘Contact’ page.