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How muscles work - Part 2: what to do when they hurt

Last time I talked about how muscles work and the role oxygen, ATP and pyruvic acid play in the whole movement thing. If you can’t remember the details (and quite frankly why would you) you might want to refresh your memory here.

So we have a trigger point which has formed in the muscle due to the accumulation of lactic acid, possibly in large amounts, possibly not so large. You have noticed this because it’s hurting. Luckily for you, you live in an area where there is a Bowen therapist so you have very sensibly decided to book a couple of treatments. Good for you. What will I do for you?

I’ll find out where your pain is (through a very difficult and scientific process involving me asking ‘where does it hurt?’) Trigger points are very obliging; their pain patterns are always the same. So if you have pain here that means you’ll have a trigger point there.

Making the Bowen move over a trigger point disperses the lactic acid, which is the first good thing. It also softens the fascia (remember that?) so it allows more blood and lymphatic fluids to come along and wash the nasty lactic acid away. In the process they bring along more oxygen and glucose, so more ATP and more movement. But it doesn’t just improve the circulation in that area; it’s a closed system like your central heating where a blockage in the bathroom radiator means the one in the bedroom doesn’t get hot either. Clear the blockage in the bathroom radiator and the whole house is warmer. As a result of a tiny overworked muscle in your shoulder, your whole upper body could be getting a reduced blood supply, late deliveries of oxygen and therefore reduced amounts of ATP. Suddenly half your body can’t work as well as it should. Muscles don’t just move you, they do other useful things like breathing and working the digestive system. Releasing that one trigger point unblocks the whole system. If the muscles are in a tetanus state, the move relaxes them. You may feel that happening, and believe me it feels amazing.

Muscles in a tetanus state don’t relax by themselves so they continue pulling on whatever it is they’re fastened to. Skeletal muscles are called that because they’re fastened to bits of the skeleton, and the only thing that stops your bones ending up in a heap on the floor is muscles. So if one of your muscles is permanently contracted it’s going to pull one of your bones out of its proper place. This may cause anything from very minor discomfort to serious distortions like one leg being shorter than the other, depending on which muscle it is that’s in tetanus.

Here’s the thing. You may not have noticed that overworked muscle and the reduction in oxygen and glucose. It may not hurt. It may have happened gradually over time, a bit like gaining weight; it’s only when you get out last year’s summer clothes that you realise you’ve been getting steadily bigger for the last 10 months. (Although oddly, the clothes you wear every day still fit. WTAF.)

If it does hurt, it may not be very much. In some cases these symptoms I’m describing are happening on an almost microscopic level. You may have been that slightly odd shape for so long you are completely used to it, or think you’re supposed to be like that. Or perhaps it’s excruciatingly painful and you went to the GP and they told you that you have an algia and to take Ibruprofen. Or that there’s nothing really wrong with you, you’re just getting older. A few aches and pains are natural as you age, aren’t they?

NO! They aren’t. There’s no reason why your body should hurt any more at 50 or 60 than it did at 20, other than the development of actual diseases. Even if you’ve had a catastrophic injury it will have healed within about 6 months, so you shouldn’t still be hurting. (By the way painkillers don’t kill pain. They simply block the receptors that allow your brain to feel the stimuli that it recognises as pain. So while Ibruprofen makes you feel better, it doesn’t actually do a darned thing to make you better. In fact by removing the disincentive to do the painful thing, it might make you worse.)

Most people who come for Bowen therapy come because they’re in pain, unsurprisingly. Very few of us will go for a treatment for something that might possibly be wrong but we hadn’t noticed. That’s a shame because actually Bowen therapy can make you feel loads better even if you didn’t realise you were feeling bad in the first place. All those tiny muscles doing tiny amounts more work than they’re comfortably capable of, causing tiny blockages in what is really a very carefully designed and balanced system, are having a negative impact even though you don’t know it. However you will notice it when it stops happening. Maybe it’s worth coming along for a couple of treatments, just in case.

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Copyright: creative commons CC BY-ND 3.0

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