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Stretching Won't Solve Your Tight Muscles

What you need to know: Many healthcare providers and trainers poorly understand why someone 'feels tight'. Dealing with muscle tightness is not as simple as just stretching.

Why Muscles Become Tight 

The human body is designed to move and movement requires varying amounts of stability and motion. When movement occurs, patterns of stability and motion can occur in efficient or inefficient ways. As structures accommodate movement, the load placed on everything from joints to muscles and tendons to nerves changes and these changes can produce symptoms. In the process of wanting to avoid symptoms, the body will often develop compensation patterns. A common result of this compensation process is the feeling of being 'tight' or 'tension'. This tension serves a protective role, thus it is referred to as protective tension.

The development of protective tension and the reason behind its presentation is one of the least understood mechanisms in musculoskeletal care. The body is smart enough to constantly monitor loads and prevent excessive load of any given structure to ultimately help prevent injury. If you are feeling 'tight', there is a reason and your body is sending you a signal. However, many people will ignore this signal until more pressing issues develop, such as pain. So how does one handle a muscle that 'feels tight'? Unfortunately, the solution is not as simple as just stretching. Stretching often provides temporary relief because of underlying joint dysfunction, stability and/or mobility deficits, or muscular weaknesses that need addressed.

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Exercise Hacks Ep. 12 - Do You Even Hoop?

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wippKKJceLA[/embed]

In a Clinically Pressed podcast episode, I was presented the question of an influential purchase for under $100. I said the jump rope and Mark Bell's hip circle. If we take it a step further and go with a purchase under $10, I'd say the hula hoop.

Why the hula hoop?



Put your preconceived notions and research aside. The hula hoop may be one the most simple - yet challenging - tools to improve closed-chain mobility and motor control of the pelvis over the hips. The hips must move quickly in and out of rotation while the abdominal sling system of the body (see Exercise Hacks Ep. 11) works to move the pelvis. There's a balance of muscular stiffness for motor control as well as the rapid contraction and relaxation of musculature essential to athleticism. These same muscular qualities are critical in preventing back and SI joint pain.

The hula hoop first peaked my interest in a rehabilitation video featuring Jacob Chychrun of the Arizona Coyotes. There certainly seems value in its use as a rehab tool. In my opinion, there is value in its use for performance as well. From my experience, if used strategically, the hula hoop can offer similar benefits and muscular activation that the 'Stir the Pot' exercise offers. In the video we demonstrate the Stir the Pot and then hoop it up.

Rather than generating movement at the shoulders, we are generating movement at the hips while maintaining a stiffness through the spine to resist spinal motion. Hula hoop long enough, your obliques will be fried. That or your nervous system will be shot from the level of intramuscular coordination required in your functional core - the spine, shoulders and hips.

Dr. McGill has described the obliques as responsible for directing 'hoop stresses' in the body. It's a critical part of the Stir the Pot exercise. Maybe the hula hoop can be used to train the obliques how to better handle those hoop stresses as well. I'd really like to get Pavel Kolar's thoughts on this as well as other colleagues that may have some experience or insight.

 
For more reading:

https://gallagherperformance.com/the-hidden-causes-of-sports-injury/

https://gallagherperformance.com/movement-improves-brain-function/

https://gallagherperformance.com/resetting-bodys-function-post-injury/

https://gallagherperformance.com/chiropractic-rehab-dns-treatment/

Scoliosis Treatment for Children & Teenagers

Scoliosis.

The diagnosis can make anyone uneasy and it can become even more unnerving for parents when they hear that diagnosis for a child. Scoliosis in children between the ages of 10-18 years of age is termed adolescent scoliosis and can be due to many causes. But the most common type of scoliosis in the adolescent period is one in which the cause is unknown and is called adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS). The reason why it is called idiopathic scoliosis is because there are currently no identifiable reasons as to why scoliosis develops in these children.

When we consider the current limited understanding of scoliosis in a traditional medical sense and the limitations in medically accepted treatment of AIS, it makes one wonder if there is a model of evaluation, treatment and management of scoliosis that may provide the potential for deeper understanding of the condition and reasons why it develops. Possibly bringing to light conservative treatment measures that have the ability to stop it's progression - or even reverse it.

Before we get to more detail on these discussion points, lets review what is currently known about AIS, from symptoms to treatment.

Symptoms
AIS generally does not result in pain or neurologic symptoms in children and teenagers. I can't stress this enough as often times this is the reason why the diagnosis of scoliosis can blindside many. Again, your child or teenager often times has no pain and no complaints. They seem to be perfectly healthy, active kids. This is a big reason why often times, scoliosis is either identified by primary care physicians during routine annual exams or during school exams.

While there may be no pain present and the child seems to be otherwise healthy despite curvature changes in the spine, how serious can the condition really be if it isn't that limiting?

While pain and neurologic symptoms may not be present, there can be disturbances within the nervous system on the cerebellar and sensory-motor integration level (1). Often there can be altered reflexes as identified by Janda, hypermobility, and muscular imbalances which create functional changes within the body (1). These functional changes have a direct effect on movement, thus having a direct effect on structure. In this case, the curvature of our spine (structure) is directly related to the function of our musculature and movement system.

Disturbances within our muscular/movement system can be identified by functional evaluation, however these evaluations are not typically part of the traditional medical evaluation process.

Does this lack of functional evaluation potentially leave pieces of the scoliosis puzzle unsolved? Pieces that would aid in determining the most appropriate course of treatment and management - and potentially a patient-specific reason for the development of the condition?

Evaluation & Physical Exam Findings
Classically, the physical evaluation and physical exam of a child diagnosed with AIS has a few key findings:

  • Visible signs of lateral spine curvature along with asymmetries seen in the shoulders or hips, in which one side appears higher than the other.
  • Adam's Forward Bending Test revealing either structural or nonstructural (aka functional) scoliosis. Adam's Test is consider the most sensitive test for scoliosis and the most common test used in the diagnosis of scoliosis.
  • Radiographs or x-ray indicating positive findings for scoliosis. The curves are often measured for angles of the curves to determine severity.
While the physical findings from these objective exams are valuable and necessary to consider, there remains a lack of evaluation into how one's body is functioning. Functional evaluations are extremely valuable in determining possible underlying reasons for the structural changes seen in AIS.

Some functional evaluation considerations that are made from the world of Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization (DNS) include:
  • Functional tests to assess movement control and coordination of the musculature surrounding the shoulders, spine, and hips.
  • The central role proper neuromuscular function plays in spinal stabilization and optimal spinal posture.
  • Sensory-motor integration and cerebellar function in the patient's ability to sense their body awareness, posture, and joint position in space.
  • Hypermobility and other present musculoskeletal compensations in response to poor function of the integrated stability stabilization system (ISSS).
The more accurate the evaluation, the more accurately treatment can be applied. Functional evaluation only compliments orthopedic and neurological evaluation. Ideally, functional evaluation such as that provided by DNS would be consider as a necessary component for it's ability to bring to light issues that more traditional orthopedic and neurologic testing are unable to identify.

Treatment
Traditional medical treatment of AIS falls into three main categories:
  1. Observation
  2. Bracing
  3. Surgery
These traditional treatment and management strategies are used in accordance with guidelines based on severity and/or progression of AIS.

But are there other treatment options? Ones that may be considered more "alternative" yet may possess the potential to yield positive results in the treatment and management of children and teens with AIS?

Often interventions such as chiropractic, physical therapy, rehabilitation, and exercise therapy can be considered by some as alternative treatments to prevent progression of AIS. However, when applied appropriately in the treatment of AIS, these "alternative" treatments can offer something that observation, bracing, or surgery cannot - truly addressing the underlying functional causes in the development of structural asymmetries.

Improving the way one moves and functions - through targeted therapeutic exercise, joint mobilizations, and/or spinal manipulation - can have huge impact on preventing the progression of AIS. Coming from the Prague School of Rehabilitation, the pioneers of DNS therapy, they not only have success in treating AIS, they even have cases of reversal. Clearly there is something we can learn from the model utilized by DNS practicioners in improving our model of scoliosis evaluation, treatment, and management.

The hope is that this article has brought to light some reasons why we should reconsider how scoliosis is evaluated and treated as well as treatment options that exist, but can be rather difficult to find.

References:
  1. Cerebellar function and hypermobility in patients with idiopathic scoliosis, Kobesova A, Drdakova L, Andel R, Kolar P. International Musculoskeletal Medicine. , 2013, 35(3): 99-105.
 
For further reading on DNS and the importance of functional evaluation, please check out the links below:

 
https://gallagherperformance.com/dynamic-neuromuscular-stabilization-advancing-therapy-performance/

https://gallagherperformance.com/solving-pain-influence-czech-rehabilitation-techniques/

https://gallagherperformance.com/resetting-bodys-function-post-injury/

https://gallagherperformance.com/the-importance-of-functional-evaluation/

https://gallagherperformance.com/chiropractic-rehab-dns-treatment/

The Solution to Long Term Improvement of Back Pain

The problem:
It’s not uncommon for people with recurrent episodes of back pain to become fearful and to start avoiding activities in life. They begin to associate pain with the activity and that the activity is doing harm. Thus, in their minds, pain equals harm and any activity that causes pain avoided. The problem becomes that as this the list of activities grow, deconditioning sets in and begins to feed into back pain. At this point, most figure they are just “getting old” or figure they will need to “learn to live with the pain”. The reality is there is a solution to help you fight against these feeling of fear and limitation and enable you to fight dysfunction in your body.

The solution:
Research tells us that exercise should be part of your back pain solution. This isn’t true of just backs, as exercise should be part of any joint pain solution. Time and time again, more than any other intervention, exercise has demonstrated the ability to provide positive outcomes in back pain relief and reduced relapses. However, too often people use different exercises to help reduce their pain only to find that exercise makes their back feel worse. The solution isn’t just simply exercise, the solution is understanding the right exercises to do while also understanding which exercises to avoid. You need to know what exercises for sciatica and disc herniation are best to do 1st to create a good foundation of movement before progressing to more difficult exercises. Where do you go for that information? Over the past several years we have put together a clinically successful exercise progression program for our patients and clients with back pain. These exercise progressions serve as the framework for rehabilitation and also serve as the foundation for improving athletic performance. Join us for our Core Training – From Rehab to Performance workshop and learn more about what you can begin doing immediately to help reduce your back pain, feel better, and improve your performance in sport or life.

 
 


More related reading:

https://gallagherperformance.com/the-best-exercise/

The Benefits of Spinal Manipulation

Spinal manipulation, also known as Chiropractic Manipulative Therapy, is an effective and efficient way to improve joint mechanics, reduce pain, improve mobility, and facilitate the acquisition of improved movements patterns when implemented strategically into treatment plans.

Yet the benefits of spinal manipulation, or chiropractic care in general, is still met with skepticism.

We are so far past establishing that there is evidence supporting spinal manipulation. Rather, we are moving in the direction of how to best establish the use of spinal manipulation in the management of specific musculoskeletal conditions and pain syndromes. The fact is that there are so many studies, systematic reviews, and meta-analyses done on spinal manipulation that a Medline search would be overwhelming to discuss.

The evidence is well summed up by a review of international low back pain guidelines. Over the last 10 years, 12 countries have done critical reviews of the scientific literature concerning low back pain. The international consensus is that the evidence supports chiropractic spinal manipulation as an effective tool in managing low back pain, and therefore is included in the recommendations.

However, the benefits of spinal manipulation do not begin and end with back pain. There are numerous benefits to spinal manipulation that make chiropractic care an invaluable addition to one’s health related or athletic pursuits. Below is just a short list.

  1. Joint pain relief - The most obvious benefit is relief of pain. Chiropractic manipulative therapy (CMT) can almost instantly relieve pain experienced in the low back, mid-back, neck, and extremities and has demonstrated this in research.
  2. Disc Bulge/Sciatica - The European Spine Journal published the findings from a clinical trial with chiropractic manipulative therapy showing 72% success rate in treating sciatica and associated symptoms. Disc bulges respond favorably to spinal manipulation techniques which focus on resorting joint mechanics and unloading the intervertebral discs.
  3. Headaches (tension and migraine) – There are hundreds of peer reviewed research articles demonstrating the ability spinal manipulation to prevent and ease the burden of headaches and migraines.
  4. Blood Pressure - In 2007, a team of researchers published a study in the Human Journal of Hypertension demonstrating that one upper cervical chiropractic adjustment had the same effect as two blood pressure-lowering drugs. Those effects were not simply short-term, they lasted more than six months.
  5. Surgery Prevention - The Journal of the American Medical Association recently published its low back pain guidelines and suggested that people suffering from back pain first try chiropractic before resorting to surgery. When appropriate, a growing number of physicians and specialists are recommending patients pursue conservative management of musculoskeletal conditions and pain syndromes before surgical intervention. The majority of these patients avoid surgery as they respond extremely well to conservative management via chiropractic care, physical therapy, or a combination.
  6. Athletic Performance - There is a reason why countless professional and Olympic athletes receive regular chiropractic care. The physiologic and neurologic benefit of spinal manipulation is super charged when used in a comprehensive care plan to address pain and dysfunction. Simply stated, muscles just work better when proper joint motion is restored via manipulative therapy. Athletes thrive on proprioception and motor responses from sensory input. Proprioception and motor response all improve from spinal manipulation. Coupled with exercises to facilitate motor skill acquisition, the short-term responses from spinal manipulation eventually become long-term improvements in movement quality and efficiency.
Based on my knowledge and experience as a sports performance and rehabilitation chiropractor, I’ve seen some surprising improvements with pain, joint proprioception and overall movement quality due to chiropractic spinal manipulation. When appropriately indicated, I regularly use spinal manipulation for reducing joint pain, improving joint mechanics, reducing muscle tension, and improving movement.

As stated above, spinal manipulation is a power tool that can be used within a comprehensive treatment plan. These treatment plans often utilize a variety of approaches that emphasize soft tissue work, guided exercises to improve stabilization and movement patterns, and patient education. These combined approaches serve as a “gold standard” for successful management and treatment of a number of musculoskeletal conditions.

To learn more about chiropractic and how it can be a benefit to your health or athletic goals, please contact our office at (724) 519-2833.

More related reading:

https://gallagherperformance.com/solution-long-term-improvement-back-pain/

https://gallagherperformance.com/the-solution-for-chronic-back-pain/

https://gallagherperformance.com/low_back_pain_causes_and_treatment_recommendations/

Painful Back? You May Be Hurting It By Stretching

What you need to know:

  • Many healthcare providers and trainers poorly understand how movement of the nervous system relates to several common pain syndromes and musculoskeletal conditions.
  • Dealing with neural tension is not as simple as just stretching. While stretching may feel good, it very easily may aggravate symptoms.
  • Once appropriate treatment of neural tension begins, patients often normalize their movement very quickly and experience pain relief. Often this pain relief is instantaneous.
What is Neural Tension?
Neural tension is rather unheard of yet it often plays a significant role in many pain syndromes and musculoskeletal conditions. We all understand for movement to occur in the body, joints must move and your muscles must contract. But did you know that your nervous system tissue must also move freely and unimpeded during movement?

Neural tension is commonly mistaken for muscle tension. Your nerves were not designed to stretch, but rather to glide and give during movement.
If some form of obstruction (soft tissue or bony) impedes your neural tissue then pain or restriction of normal nerve movement is a common result. This normal nerve movement may only be a matter of millimeters, but nerve tissue is highly sensitive and does not like to stretch. Thus if too much stretch is placed on a nerve, the result is adverse neural tension and that can create pain, limited range of motion, as well as other classical symptoms associated with nerve tissue (numbness, burning, shooting pain, etc.)

Neural Tension Treatment
The movement of your nerves, or neurodynamics, can be assessed by a licensed chiropractor or therapist trained in the process of detecting and treating neural tension. Screens or tests commonly used to identify neural tension help identify not only which nerve(s) have adverse neural tension but also where the nerve is being obstructed during its movement. Identify where the nerve is being obstructed is critically important because treatment is tailored to the site of obstruction.

Again, this highlights the importance of an accurate assessment as treatment can be more accurately applied to the structure(s) creating adverse neural tension. Once treatment begins, patients often normalize their movement very quickly and experience pain relief. Often this nerve pain relief is instantaneous.

What Conditions Commonly Involve Adverse Neural Tension?
Some common conditions that adverse neural tension often plays a role in or is a complicating factor that must be treated include:
  • Neck Pain
  • Shoulder Pain
  • Tennis Elbow
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Low Back Pain
  • Hip Pain
  • Sciatica
  • Plantar Fasciitis
Stretching vs Nerve Mobilizations
A common misconception in the treatment of back pain and associated muscle tightness is the idea that one must stretch to get relief. Stretching may bring temporary relief, only for one to experience the tightness come back once again or, worse yet, an increase in their pain.

Interestingly, when neural tension is identified as the underlying reason for muscle tightness, the treatment of neural tension doesn't actually involve stretching. Excessive stretching can actually irritate your nerves and increase pain. Excessive stretching may potentially damage your nerves as well.

This should make the message pretty clear - stretching may not be the best thing for your back when it's giving you all the signs that it isn't responding favorably.

Rather than stretching, restricted nerves and the surrounding muscles require a different approach known as nerve mobilizations or nerve sliders. Qualified chiropractors and physical therapists will utilize nerve mobilizations to help entraped nerves slide better during movement. They will also treat the surrounding muscles or tissues that is obstructing your normal nerve movement. After treatment, they will retest your neurodynamics and repeat the process until your full neural movement is restored. This process may take a few treatments to clear up, or take several, depending on severity.

Research Supports Neurodynamics
The concept of neurodynamics or neuromobilization is originally based on the research of Michael Shacklock and David Butler. Over the past several years, further research has added to the scientific support of the concept that your nerve tissue requires full freedom of movement to remain pain-free.

The following excerpts are from Michael Shacklock’s book Clinical Neurodynamics: a new system of musculoskeletal treatment:
"Neurodynamics is an innovative management tool involving conservative decompression of nerves, various neural mobilising techniques and patient education techniques. Neurodynamics offers a fresh understanding and management strategies for common syndromes such as plantar fasciitis, tennis elbow, nerve root disorders, carpal tunnel syndromes and spinal pain."

"Essentially the entire nervous system is a continuous structure and it moves and slides in the body as we move and the movement is related to critical physiological processes such as blood flow to neurones. This movement is quite dramatic and it is not hard to imagine that fluid such as blood in the nerve bed, a constricting scar, inflammation around the nerve or a nerve having to contend with arthritic changes or proximity to an unstable joint could have damaging effects, some of which could lead to pain."
Final Words
Neural tension can be present with many common musculoskeletal conditions, such as back pain. Very often neural tension is easily mistaken for muscle tension, leading many to want to stretch in order to find relief. Stretching can be counterproductive and may aggravate pain symptoms. In order to treat neural tension, it must be examined accordingly. At GP, we are trained in detecting and treating adverse neural tension and why it is present.

If your pain is not resolving with other interventions, consider your pain may be associated with neural tension and you may benefit from the most appropriate course of treatment and client education.

More related reading:

https://gallagherperformance.com/why-stretching-wont-solve-your-tight-muscles/

 

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