Angry Muscles and Upset Joints: Who really started it?
Did you know that the health of your muscles and joints is closely intertwined? The way your muscles function and the condition of your joints play a pivotal role in your overall comfort and well-being. Understanding and addressing each of these is the only way to ensure effective management and lasting improvements can be made for musculo-skeletal issues!
Tight Muscles and Stressed Joints: A Painful Duet
Imagine your muscles and joints as dance partners in an intricate tango. When your muscles are tight and your joints are stressed, it’s like two partners stepping on each other’s toes. This can result in pain and discomfort. Tight muscles, often caused by factors like stress, poor posture, or repetitive overuse, can continually pull your joints into non-neutral positions, both at rest and during movement. This difficulty aligning bones properly can lead to discomfort, restricted mobility, and even injury.
For instance, the muscles in your neck and shoulders can become tense due to stress or poor ergonomics, causing your shoulder joints to be pulled upward and forward. This not only leads to discomfort in your upper body but can also affect the position of your spine and skull, and can start to restrict and irritate their joints.
Weak Muscles and Unprotected Joints: A Recipe for Trouble
Just as tight muscles can create joint issues, weak and underactive muscles can also wreak havoc. Muscles serve as your body’s natural support system, stabilizing and protecting your joints during movement. When these muscles are weak or being switched-off by pain or other tight muscles or joints, your joints become vulnerable to strain and injury.
A classic example of this scenario is in the lower back. Weak and inactive core muscles can’t adequately support your spine, leading to instability and an increased risk of straining joint structures like ligaments and discs. Similarly, weak hip muscles can result in difficulty controlling your hip position and will force other muscles nearby to pick up the slack, quickly making them feel tight and overworked.
Joints Signal to Muscles: A Complex Conversation
The relationship between muscles and joints is not one-sided. Your joints can communicate with nearby muscles through nerves that travel to them from your ligaments (in the joint). When a joint is painful or irritated, the ligaments send signals to the surrounding muscles to either tighten or switch off in an attempt to protect the joint.
Consider a stressed ligament in your lower back. The ligaments in the spine and pelvic joints send signals to the hip and core muscles around them, causing certain ones to tense up to limit movements that might cause pain. Other muscles will be switched off to prevent movements that might further stress your damaged joint. While this response is intended to prevent further injury in the short-term, it can quickly lead to muscle imbalances and prolonged discomfort, along with higher risk of injury to areas nearby in the future, if not addressed properly.
Joint Stiffness and Muscle Overuse: A Vicious Cycle
Joint issues, such as stiffness and restricted motion, can also take a toll on your muscles. When your joints are not moving as they should, your muscles have to work harder to compensate. This extra effort can lead to chronic and stubborn muscle fatigue and tightness.
Postural muscles like those in the upper back between the shoulder blades are meant to hold your spine in a straight, efficient posture to optimise load on your back, neck, and shoulders. When the spine and rib joints that these are supposed to hold become stiff and stuck in flexed, rounded positions, these postural muscles are forced to struggle against immobile joints all day long. After a short time doing this, the muscles themselves can start to feel tight and ache from having to work so hard.
To manage these types of issues yourself, we at Restore Health Clinic generally recommend a varied balance of regular strength, muscle flexibility, and joint mobility exercises be included in your weekly routines. This typically doesn’t have to be a long list – short, regular exercises that cover these categories and hit lots of different muscles and directions of movement will be beneficial even in small doses.
If you’re struggling to identify and get on top of any issues yourself, come let one of our practitioners put you on the right track.