Being a Registered Massage Therapist, I often get asked, “Why do muscles get tight?”
In Part 2, we are going to discuss the principles of Stretching & Strengthening.
I’ve asked numerous people: “What does strength and flexibility mean to you?”
Take a second to think what you would answer.
The replies I received often refer to strength in regard to carrying “things”, for example, carrying groceries to the car. Regarding flexibility, many often answered that flexibility is the ability to move freely in a range of motion. For example, the ability to touch one’s toes, which many people apparently wish they could.
Their answers are not far off.
Interestingly, when asked about strength, most people did not take into account that a certain amount of strength is required to move, stabilize and “carry” their own bodies!
For the purpose of this article, in regard to the human body, we will define strength as physical endurance. In other words, how much weight AND for how much time can a person carry themselves and extra “things”, such as the groceries.
Again, for this article, we’ll define flexibility as the length muscle fibres can extend in a given motion. Think back to the rubber elastic analogy but specifically, how stretchy or tight they are.
A general principle of life is that muscles generally shorten as we age. We’ve all heard the phrase, “if you don’t use it, you lose it”. Over time, when muscles are not maintained, they shorten resulting in loss of strength and flexibility.
Generally, we begin to notice this when we wake up in the morning and our muscles are “stiff”. Have you ever seen a dog or cat when they wake up? They go through a stretching routine almost automatically.
Ok Sean, so what you’re saying is that over time we can experience shortened, potentially weaker and stiff muscles. They still work! So, what’s the problem?
Good question. Many important transport and communication systems could get squeezed. This “squeezing” effect has the potential to limit “blood and lymph flow” and affect “nerve communication” resulting in pain and potential for injury. I call this the “garden hose effect” in the body. When a garden hose is bent the flowing water slows, limiting the flow.
Limited flow can affect the nutrient delivery system via “blood flow” through the veins & arteries, the immune and garbage removal systems via the lymph. The nerve communication system can be impacted as well.
When muscles are strong and flexible, the tissues allow for optimal circulation, proper transport of nutrients and good nerve communication.
As part of my treatment, Massage Therapy can help decrease tension in muscles and soft tissues, increase flexibility and increase circulation. Also, I assign stretches and strengthening remedial exercises to help clients address these issues.
Best in Health,