No Pain is Your Gain is a quote from the first sports massage therapy class that I took 21 years ago. It was taught by Dr Myk Hungerford who brought sports massage to the Iron Man competition in Hawaii. That line has stuck with me over the years. And, it prompts me to ask myself which methods work best with someone without creating undo pain and stress on the muscle?
Much like the unruly teenagers with whom I worked in my earlier career, you have to find different ways to finesse the muscle for it to relax. Brute force is not an option when working as an adolescent counselor and, similarly, pressing deep and hard on the muscle will only make the muscle react and recoil into further spasm. The skilled therapist must utilize methods to coax the muscle to release and relax (or for the teenager to comply).
What methods might work best for hypertonic muscle spasm? We all are familiar with the advice of trainers, physical therapists, yoga instructors, chiropractors or doctors and massage therapists who tell you to find a lacrosse ball or get a roller and “roll out” the painful or tight area. We all have been trained to ask for deep tissue when going for a massage or ask the therapist to dig in further. Unfortunately, if you think about that advice, it makes no sense, when you learn that a muscle that is contracted in chronic spasm is over functioning and it is not advantageous to over power the muscle. It is not the muscle that is the root of the problem but, actually, the feedback nerves in the muscle going to the brain that are weakened and malfunctioning. Therefore, doesn’t it make more sense to focus on the strength of that broadcasting signal from muscle to brain? Smashing the muscle with excess force will choke the muscle with more lactic acid and cause more muscle spasm. We may not feel this happening because our body protects us with a dose of endorphin which dulls the pain created by this excess force – so there is a temporary sense of relief with this internal morphine released by the pituitary gland.
One method that I learned at the beginning of my career as a massage therapist called NeuroSoma focuses on restoring the feedback nerves of the muscle spindle without activating the anulospiral nerves that control the stretch reflex of the muscle. This delicate fingertip method, if done correctly, will relax the muscle, allow the blood vessels to open further and, the initial irritant that sickened the feedback nerve, lactic acid, will be carried away to the liver. The muscle will feel so much more expanded and healthier after this type of treatment. You will not have a feeling of being mauled or run over by a mack truck. This treatment method focuses on the root of the problem, therefore, after a number of treatments you will feel improvement and restoration of the muscle. With a new understanding and respect for your muscles and the use of the NeuroSoma technique, you will find that you can retire your foam roller and lacrosse balls! Work with your muscles instead of against them!. #nopainisyourgain