Young children as a rule move
freely , smoothly and efficiently , with tremendous power to weight ratios. Once schooling commences ,with more hours spent
sitting & less playing , there is a steady decline in these parameters. Combined
with the effects of repeated small (and sometimes large) injuries & accumulated “stress” (which lurks in distinct
muscle tension patterns), there is a gradual loss of youthful movement efficiency. This has been called “physiological creep” and is responsible for much of the stiffness/soreness/loss of flexibility of so-called
ageing. But the reality is that if the physical activities of a child are reproduced and the concept of play once again becomes
acceptable , many of these changes can be reversed. If neglected, the muscle
imbalances will surely pull the joints out of proper alignment , the skeletal system develops the shakes and abnormal wear
patterns develop on joint surfaces. If stiffness/ and pain prevent physical activity , there is loss of joint nutrition and
weakening of cartilage. Cartilage has a poor blood supply and relies on the synovial fluid lubricant to carry nutrition in
and wastes , eg damaged cartilage, out. In the medium to long term, this results
in osteoarthritis (wear & tear injury) . Attempts by the joint lining (synovium) to repair the ongoing damage result in
accumulation of fluid (effusions) with swelling , stiffness , pain and reflex muscle wasting as the body splints the damaged
In my experience , arthritic joint tissues microscopically
often show little or no inflammation and the condition is better termed osteoarthrosis. Much of the pain results from trigger
points in soft tissues around these poorly supported joints.
These are the tight contraction
muscle “ knots” well known to massage therapists, osteopaths and
chiropractors , responsible for a huge amount of pain and disability in the workplace and in the sporting environment. Often what is thought to be or called “arthritis”
is stiffness from multiple trigger points. These can occur from infancy to the grave , and tend to accumulate as we grow older
as the stresses and strains of everyday living (occupational , emotional) are absorbed. Often these form on a background of
chronic localised or generalised muscular tension (conjure a mental image of a
time-pressured computer-linked office worker with 6 children and big mortgage .) What starts out as slight stiffness can soon
escalate into severe nagging pain and multiple trigger points in many muscles. This can independently lead to insomnia! Not
to mention loss of normal mobility and difficulty in completing the day’s
tasks. There are often cofactors which act to unmask latent (lurking) trigger points and turn them into active ones.
Chances are , if you poke and
prod around your muscles (especially the neck/mid and lower back) but also in forearms and thighs/calves you will find lots
of these nasty stiffness and pain-causing knots. Most are found in tight muscle bands , often towards the centre of the muscle
belly. They are also found in connective tissues around joints. You know when you have found a trigger point when firm pressure
hurts and causes referred pain in another site.Sometimes you may palplate a slight twitch at the trigger site. The great thing
is that they can be treated – with massage (self or with active release
techniques), pressure , acupuncture and stress reduction techniques.
The definitive self-empowering
self – treatment manual can be found here : http://www.triggerpointbook.com/index.html . It’s just brilliant.
A great tool ( backnobber)
for trigger point treatment can be found here :
Foam rollers are easy to use
and work well too
To keep trigger points at bay
,you have to work long term to increase the blood flow and keep the affected muscles stretched and strengthened. When people
say “keep moving” or “if you don’t use it you’ll lose it” they are not joking!
Kettlebells can obviously help and when things tighten up , just reach for the bell (or alternatively fork out $$$ for often short-lived , bandaid therapy). Your choice…
It is far better to prevent
this process by :
Prehabilitation , maintenance
and active rehabilitation.
Prehabilitation : This refers to the process of conditioning the body
to accept all reasonable loads and forces , especially those which occur when the body is in a compromised (awkward) position or when sudden unexpected forces act. e.g. lifting an odd-shaped/weighted
object , pushing a stalled car , slipping/stumbling on a wet surface, collision on sports field.
Part of the concept of fitness is to attain a state of mental & physical well-being so that one can meet all the demands
of daily living( including the rigours of one’s occupation) and also withstand
the additional deliberately imposed or unexpected mental & physical stressors.
Frequent practise with kettlebells
equips the mind and body with the functional capacity to complete daily tasks with minimal effort but with enormous reserves
in times of stress.
Rehabilitation : refers
to the restoration of an injured part to normal strength , range of motion (torso, limb
) and ability to function in a pain-free non-inhibited fashion.
The mind-body neuromuscular
training/retraining and full ROM exercises afforded by kettlebells enable rapid and effective rehabilitation.