Tag Archives: muscle pain

5 things you didn’t know could be caused by muscle pain

Most massage therapists and myotherapists treat taut bands of muscle and what they call myofascial trigger points, or what you might know as ‘knots’ in the muscle. Also known as trigger points, they are described as hyperirritable spots in the fascia surrounding skeletal muscle. They are associated with palpable nodules in taut bands of muscle fibres. There is little science around what causes these trigger points, or how they can be medically diagnosed, as they cannot be seen in medical imaging. As a result, the misdiagnosis of myofascial pain is prevalent.

The misdiagnosis of pain is the most important issue taken up by Travell and Simons, the clinical physicians who coined the term, trigger point. Referred pain from trigger points mimics the symptoms of a very long list of common maladies, but physicians, in weighing all the possible causes for a given condition, rarely consider a myofascial source. The study of trigger points has not historically been part of medical education. Travell and Simons hold that most of the common everyday pain is caused by myofascial trigger points and that ignorance of that basic concept could inevitably lead to false diagnoses and the ultimate failure to deal effectively with pain. [1]

Below are just five symptoms of myofascial pain. If you’ve explored other options with your GP, with no results, consider checking with your massage therapist to see if myofascial tension could be the cause…

  1. Earaches, Ringing (Tinnitus) or Itchy ears
    These muscles in the front of the neck, jaw and face join in around the base of the ear and can lead to ear pain, feeling of itchiness or create a ringing in the ear.

Sternocleidomastoid or SCM for short, has a whole list of symptoms it can cause when it is tight and has active trigger points, including sinusitis-like symptoms, dizziness after whiplash injury, sore throat, temple or frontal headache, dry cough and nasal drip. Tension in SCM in combination with tension in the masseter and pterygoid muscles, that help you chew, can lead to ear pain.

Massage through the front of the neck and jaw can ease these symptoms.

  1. Rapid, Fluttery, Irregular Heartbeat or Heart Attack-like Pain
    Muscles in the chest, including the sternalis and pectorial major, can cause pain in the chest. While trigger points in the scalenes, at the front of the neck can cause referral pain in the chest and arm. Tension in these muscles can lead to pain that emulates heart palpitations or heart attack. However, if you are having these symptoms, please call emergency and be cleared for any heart problems first before you think about having a massage.

  2. Irritable Bowel
    Trigger points in the lateral abdominal obliques can cause dysfunction of the muscle and inhibit the function of the bowels.
    While dysfunction of the multifidi of the lumber spine can cause dysfunction of the pelvic floor muscles that control bowel and bladder movements.
    Massage to the abdomen can help get the muscles back to normal function and relieve active trigger points that may be causing pain and dysfunction.
    One way to help recruit and strengthen the lumbar multifidus muscles is by tensing the pelvic floor muscles for a few seconds “as if stopping urination midstream”.[2]
  1. Stress Incontinence or Anal/Genital/Perineal pain
    Stress incontinence is a condition (found chiefly in women) in which there is involuntary emission of urine when pressure within the abdomen increases suddenly, as in coughing or jumping.
    Stress on the adductor magnus, piriformis and pelvic floor muscles can often occur during childbirth, or exercise. These muscles are on the inside of the thigh, in the deep gluteals/hip rotators and the distal floor of the pelvis respectively.
    The pelvic floor is important in providing support for pelvic organs, such as the bladder, intestines, the uterus and in maintenance of continence as part of the urinary and anal sphincters. It facilitates birth by resisting the descent of the presenting part, causing the foetus to rotate forwards to navigate through the pelvic girdle. It helps maintain optimal intra-abdominal pressure.[3]
    Massage can be performed through the adductor magnus and piriformis. Your massage or physical therapist can teach self-massage to you for the pelvic floor, stretches and exercises to help ease tension in all of these muscles.

Easy Stretches to Relax the Pelvis – Women

  1. Menstrual or Pelvic Pain
    Similarly, the muscles around the pelvic floor, deep glutes, sacrum and abdominals can cause menstrual or pelvic pain. Some abdominal massage, self massage to the pelvic floor and stretches and exercises can aid in releasing these muscles to ease menstrual pain.

Please remember, that although muscular pain can lead to a range of symptoms, to check with your GP or health physician first to rule out any other cause.

Magnesium: what is it & what does it do for you?

I regularly recommend my clients use magnesium, either in the form of a supplement, topical cream or oil, or as salts dissolved in a warm bath.

But what is magnesium, and what does it do for our body?

The Science

Magnesium

Magnesium is a chemical element. It is the fourth most common element on Earth, and the third most common dissolved in seawater. Magnesium is the eleventh most abundant element by mass in the human body and is essential to all cells and some 300 enzymes.

The important interaction between phosphate and magnesium ions makes magnesium essential to the basic nucleic acid chemistry of all cells of all known living organisms. More than 300 enzymes require magnesium ions for their catalytic action, including all enzymes using or synthesizing adenosine triphosphate (ATP).

Now I don’t want this to turn into a boring chemistry lecture, but ATP is a complex organic chemical that participates in many processes, including providing energy for nearly all of the body’s metabolic processes and muscular contraction. 20% of the body’s magnesium is for skeletal muscle function.[1]

Magnesium is also an imperative part in;

  • Nerve conduction
  • The production of energy from carbohydrates and fats
  • The production and maintenance of healthy bones, including the synthesis of bone matrix, bone mineral metabolism and the maintenance of bone density
  • Maintenance of healthy heart function and normal heart rhythm.[2]

Where can we source magnesium?

The Source

Nuts, Greens, Cocoa & Spices

Spices, nuts & seeds, cereals, cocoa (W00T!) and leafy green vegetables are rich sources of magnesium. [3]

Thankfully, if we are not getting enough magnesium in our diet, or are experiencing symptoms of magnesium deficiency alternative methods for magnesium intake is readily available.

Bath salts

Magnesium chloride

Magnesium chloride is extracted from seawater and is more readily absorbed through the skin than other forms of magnesium, so it’s perfect for bath salts. It is not for ingestion.

Magnesium sulfate

Magnesium sulfate is more commonly known as Epsom salts. A great source of magnesium and available in most supermarkets and chemists, Epsom salts have been popular since it was discovered in the British town it was named after, in the 17th century. [4]

Topical creams and oils

As both magnesium chloride and sulfate are absorbed through the skin, they make great topical applications and are available in creams and oils that can be rubbed directly on the sore or cramping muscle. Great for carrying in your sports or travel bag and cant get to a bath.

Topical spray, supplements, bath salts

Supplements

Magnesium itself cannot be absorbed and needs to be bonded to another molecule to be absorbed. The most common bonding agents are oxide, citrate, glycinate, sulphate or amino acid chelate.

This is the least absorbed form, but also has one of the highest percentages of elemental magnesium per dose so it still may be the  highest absorbed dose per mg. This is a great general purpose magnesium if really Mg is all you need.  It makes a simple muscle relaxer, nerve tonic and laxative if you take a high dose.

This is one of the most common forms of Mg on the commercial market. This is Mg bonded to citric acid, which increases the rate of absorption. Citrate is a larger molecule than the simple oxygen of oxide, so there is less magnesium by weight than in the oxide form. This is the most commonly used form in laxative preparations.

In this form, Mg is bonded to the amino acid glycine. Glycine itself is a relaxing neurotransmitter and so enhances magnesium’s natural relaxation properties. This could be the best form if you’re using it for mental calm and relaxation.

Magnesium amino acid chelate is usually bonded to a variety of amino acids. In this form there is less magnesium by weight but the individual amino acids could all be beneficial for different things. Every formula is different so if you need both Mg and a particular amino acid, then this could be the way to go. [5]

Recommended daily intake of magnesium is;

  • 400 mg/day for men aged 19-30 years, increasing to 420 mg/day for those aged 31 and above,
  • For women aged 19-30 years, the RDI is 310 mg/day, increasing to 320 mg over the age of 30,
  • Depending on their age, the RDI for adult women who are pregnant is 350-360 mg/day.
  • The RDI for breastfeeding for those who are breastfeeding is 310-320 mg of magnesium each day. [6]

What happens if I don’t have enough magnesium?

The Symptoms

If you’re not getting enough magnesium in your diet then you may be experiencing symptoms such as;

  • Muscular cramp

    Muscular problems such as cramps, twitches, slow to recover from injury, aches and pains,

  • Fibromyalgia is sometimes linked to magnesium deficiency,
  • Migraines and headaches, including tension headaches,
  • Period pain and symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, including mood swings , fluid retention, premenstrual migraines,
  • Stress, irritability, insomnia and anxiety,
  • Fatigue, which may be a symptom of magnesium deficiency.

It may also play a role in helping to maintain cardiovascular health and healthy bone density.

What could be causing my magnesium deficiency?

The Seed

  • Stress (especially when prolonged or severe),
  • Inadequate sleep,
  • Profuse perspiration,
  • Excessive consumption of caffeine, salt, sugar and alcohol,
  • Heavy menstrual periods,
  • Eating large quantities of processed and refined foods,
  • The use of some multiple pharmaceutical medications,
  • Gastrointestinal disorders such as short-term diarrhoea or vomiting and conditions that affect your absorption of nutrients,
  • Getting older. [7]

Can I have too much magnesium?

Doses less than 350 mg daily are safe for most adults. When taken in very large amounts, magnesium is possibly unsafe.

Symptoms of magnesium overdose include;

  • diarrhea
  • nausea and vomiting
  • lethargy
  • muscle weakness
  • irregular heartbeat
  • low blood pressure
  • urine retention
  • respiratory distress
  • cardiac arrest. [8]

 

The best way to ensure you’re getting enough magnesium is to maintain a healthy diet of whole foods and steer clear of processed and refined foods. If you are getting regular cramps or muscular pain it might be a good idea to get some advice from your physical therapist.

Maintaining muscular health can be as easy as regular gentle exercise and stretching, fresh air and water each day, a 20 minute magnesium bath a week, some leafy greens and nuts in your diet and regular massage.

If you think you have a serious magnesium deficiency you should consult your doctor.

 

Have you ever used magnesium? How did it work for you?

Why Am I Sore After a Deep Tissue Massage?

Deep tissue massage is a style of massage that is usually practised with oil on skin, with a firmer pressure than relaxation massage. It’s aim is to reach the deeper layers of muscle and connective tissue than those underlying the skin.

How does it work?

iStock_000010728710XSmallOur muscles are made of tiny fibres call myofibrils. When our muscles are overused or misused the fibres can adhere together or tear. It’s not really known why this happens but we know that heat and compression helps to break down the adhesions, attracting blow-flow to the area and help heal the tears. This is where deep tissue massage can help.

Deep tissue massage promotes blood flow to the injured area and creates micro-tears in the muscle tissue, to speed up the healing process. Because of this, the area becomes bruised, and this is what causes the pain after the massage. Usually this is only felt when you touch the area that was treated, and normally wont be visible on the skin.

The pain you experience after a massage should only be likened to how you feel after a heavy exercise session, and not a worsening of the pain of your injury that was treated. If your injury feels worse then the massage may have been too firm, or that your condition cannot be remedied with massage.

Who can benefit from deep tissue massage?

Hip painAnyone suffering from chronic or acute muscle tension. This can be caused by overuse or misuse, a pre-existing condition or recent injury.

Deep tissue massage can break down old scar tissue left from injury or surgery. It can help alleviate tension built up from conditions like arthritis or inflammation in the joints. It can help manage pain from poor posture or repetitive motion like sitting at a desk all day, using tools or long hours exercising.

What to expect in a massage?

Your massage therapist will start with a kneading style of massage, generating some heat in the tissue to start to warm up the muscle and help you relax. They then might perform firm stripping motions in the direction of the muscle they are treating. A good massage therapist will normally (but not always) be able to feel the change in tissue tension and know where you are tight, where you have trigger points and taught bands.

shutterstock_412363579Unfortunately this can often be uncomfortable. Your massage therapist should always work within your pain threshold and ask you if the pressure is okay. They may even ask you to grade the pain out of ten. Don’t be afraid to speak up if the pressure is too much for you. In this case, pain is not gain. Too much pressure may be doing further damage to the muscle and cause your injury to flare up further.

The massage therapist will just their palms, knuckles, fist, forearm and even their elbow. The speed of the strokes will most likely be slow and even stop and hold at points with more tension until it eases.

Don’t forget to breathe

Be sure to breathe throughout the treatment, this may sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people hold their breathe to cope with the pain. If you need to hold your breath, then the pressure is too much. Deep breathing can help you tolerate more pressure and the oxygen will help the muscles release. Your massage therapist may even ask you to take a deep breath ‘into the muscle’ that they are treating.

What to do after a massage?

shutterstock_252553801Your massage therapist should give you after care advise. It is recommended you rest after your massage, drink plenty of water to replenish fluids that have been flushed out during the massage and apply heat to the area you had treated. This will help your muscles recover from the massage and recover from your injury. Another great way to ease muscle soreness after a massage is to have an Epsom salt bath.