Headache pills are great. After a night out that was a little bit larger than expected, or a broken night’s sleep up with your children, popping a paracetamol can take the edge of any resulting headache.
We all know however that taking a pill does not address the root cause of any pain. A good night’s sleep or a little less alcohol would’ve done that.
Likewise massage, foam rolling and stretching will usually take the edge off any aches and pains you may be suffering from but do they address the cause?
I used these methods for years both on my clients and myself. With time however I grew frustrated. Why did the muscles I was trying to loosen seem to tighten straight back up again? And in a broader sense, are our bodies really designed to require this much maintenance?
To answer these questions we need to look at what governs tension in our muscular system. This is entirely regulated by your central nervous system (CNS), namely your brain and your spinal cord.
There are some astounding facts surrounding your CNS which give an indication of how much information it’s constantly processing. My favourite fact involves interneurons. These are the nerve cells responsible for collating information from both the sensory and motor segments of your nervous system. There are over a billion of them in your brain, each with 1000 connections. I’m not going to do the maths on that one but suffice to say it’s a large number.
You have to think therefore that something working with so much information knows better than all of us how much tension there should be in a muscle.
Making a choice to override that decision usually results in your CNS restoring that tension as soon as it is able. Far better to look for the cause, muscle weakness.
When some muscles aren’t contracting as well as they could do, others must work harder to compensate. This is the underlying cause of muscle tightness.
If you improve the function of the weak muscles, your CNS will relax the tight ones.
Remember, muscles do not think for themselves. The tension is there for a reason, we just have to figure out exactly what that reason is.
Read more about how we do that here.