Muscular pain is a common result of a “muscular imbalance” which can affect any part of the body. Lower back pain in particular is an important public health issue that can directly affect an individual’s lifestyle. Sitting has now become the most common posture in today’s workplace. There are a huge range of jobs that require sitting all day; call centres, taxi drivers, administration jobs, supermarket tills, the list goes on. The body requires certain muscle groups to tense and contract allowing for movement and gripping actions however sitting for long periods of time can have a negative impact on the certain muscle groups like the hamstrings, pectoral muscles and hip flexors – this is a recipe for back pain and bad posture.
When you have a short tight muscle and a longer weaker muscle that opposes it, this creates a muscular imbalance that leads to muscle aches and pain. Take for example the muscles of the chest… when these muscles oppose the upper back muscles, they perform opposite functions to push and pull. So for those who sit for long periods of time, their shoulders and head move forward causing a tightness to form in the chest and shoulder muscles bringing rise to weak upper back muscles – the development of a hunched neck and back. The hip flexors and hamstrings are also shortened while sitting to give support to the pelvis, which in line moves forward and backward, causing lower back pain. People with this type of muscular imbalance typically stand or sit with their head pulled forward and the back rounded. Although there are now correctional curved seats and spine alignments to attach to chairs, sitting does not guarantee proper posture for the lumbar, thoracic and cervical portions of the spine.
Approximately 80% of the adult population will experience back pain at some time in their life (Gordon and Bloxham, 2016) (Phillips et al, 1992). These statistics could be linked to the rapid development of modern technology which can affect our lifestyle and occupation (Li and Haslegrave, 1999).
A study by Kuo, Tully and Galea (2009) found that older adults demonstrated significantly increased thoracic kyphosis and decreased lumbar spine flexion. These types of problems deserve specific attention to resolve their posture alignment. It is important to note that sedentary workers are at risk of prolonged pain; a study by Celik and Mutlu (2013) states that prolonged postural activities such as 30 minutes of prolonged computer typing may contribute to the formation or propagation of a myofascial trigger point.
What is a Myofascial trigger point (MTrP) ?
If you can imagine the fibres of a muscle… they normally run alongside each other, parallel, neat and tidy. A trigger point causes the fibres to wind and form into what’s called a “muscle knot” So now, imagine a section of those muscle fibres replicating spaghetti all tangled up – consistent use of the affected muscles would cause muscular stress which we experience as an ache or pain. The stress put onto these muscles is particularly irritating as the muscle can become hyper-tonic and is always active. The body’s natural reaction to this is to form a trigger point which causes patches of poor circulation resulting into metabolic wastes with high acidity in small areas of the muscle. The result is a feeling of discomfort and tense muscles that perpetuate a vicious cycle. (Gerwin, Dommerholt and Shah 2004, pp. 468-475).
Many advanced techniques used in sports massage and other forms of massage can help untangle and distress affected massage through;
- Reduction in muscle tension, muscular pain and discomfort.
- Increased range of motion, leading to enhanced performance.
- Decreased muscle stiffness and soreness after exercise or physical activity
- Reduced recovery time post injury
- Increased levels of relaxation and reduction in physical and psychological stress levels and can even aid in sleep quantity and quality.
Massage is an effective therapy for managing physical pain and to be encouraged as part of a healthy lifestyle. If you are in pain or discomfort and perhaps relying on short-term remedies like painkillers, consider a sports massage for long-term pain management. Sports massage lends itself as a hands-on therapy for more serious pain relief and muscle relaxation. Your posture and movement is assessed during a sport massage to identify weak dysfunctional muscles and other problem areas enabling your therapist to recommend suitable aftercare and exercises.