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Home > Trigger Point therapy > Pain Cycle

Muscle Tightness and The Pain Cycle

Muscle Tone Restoration - Newsletter - July 15, 2005

Definition of Muscle Tone

A health care professional once stated that "Tone is that degree of contraction shown by normal resting muscle and which maintains the attachments in proper anatomical relationship."

Function of Muscle Tone

The statement is corroborated in numerous physiology texts. It indicates that functional tone is responsible for structural alignment, which fits well with the proverb and the logical truth. "Life is the expression of tone." This says that normal muscle tone indicates good health, while disturbed muscle tone indicates disturbed health. Disturbed tone would also disturb structure.

Effects of a Hypertonic State

Not only does disturbed soft tissue disturb structure, it also affects the circulatory, lymphatic and nervous systems and from a chain reaction could quite possibly affect a range of other systems in your body. Can you remember a time when discomfort and pain annoyed and angered you? You see how this condition not only affects your anatomical and physiological balance but also affects your emotions, and over an extended period it certainly could have a negative effect on you.


If not checked, this imbalance can spread

An imbalance in your body can be initiated in many different ways. From a musculo-skeletal viewpoint we will address how affected muscles and soft tissue, i.e. including tendons, ligaments and all connective tissue, can cause an imbalance. And if not remedied over time this condition can grow and spread to neighboring tissue, and can possibly cause a series of health problems. The initial symptoms are what we all recognize - discomfort, tightness and pain. Today I will share my view of how this process begins, builds and creates a pain cycle that is self-sustained and spreads.

Why Muscles Tighten Unintentionally

At rest or during sleep your body is totally relaxed and in an ideal state all your muscles are soft with just enough tone to hold your bones and joints together (resting tone). When you are active, the muscles being used bulge, firm up and shorten (high tone) on flexion and lengthen and relax (low/resting tone) on extension. Besides holding you together and performing activities, your muscles and soft tissue, along with the skeleton, protect you. Do you notice how your body tightens and your tissue “hardens” in the presence of danger? This also happens in anticipation of impact - notice how you “tighten up” when you anticipate pain. This is all fine if the soft tissue returns to its normal “resting tone” again when relaxed. If this does not happen, then the accumulation of tightness (high tone) has begun and can self perfetuate undetected for years.

The Pain Threshold

Muscle pain starts when the tone passes a certain level. This is called the Pain Threshold. Up to this point even though pain existed you could not feel it - so tightness is just a lower degree of pain. Remember how you tightened up in anticipation of pain - so too does the tissue that is experiencing pain ( that you do not feel yet ). So since tightness is (or causes) pain and pain causes tightness, we now have a pain cycle and hence a chronic tightness that does not soften when relaxed. What’s worse is that you are unaware of it since in the beginning all this is below your pain threshold and goes undetected, hence it can accumulate and grow until it turns to significant an chronic pain and requires serious attention.

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The purpose of these newsletters is to share an understanding of soft tissue tension and ways to restore muscle and other soft tissue condition and function.

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Primary Affected Area: Both sides

Secondary Affected Areas:(click on body map)

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