Chronic Muscle Tension
Why Do Muscles Tighten?
A muscle contracts with use and normally relaxes after use. But when a muscle is contracted for prolonged periods, the muscle loses oxygen causing the pyruvic acid to convert to lactic acid. Lactic acid accumulates in the muscle and around the muscle spindle. Lactic acid is an irritant to the muscle and sickens the muscle spindle causing a weak message from the muscle to the brain. When the brain receives a weak message from the muscle, the brain tells the muscle to tighten. Once this tightening begins, it’s a catch 22. The muscle, already tight from over work, tightens further with use and can’t relax until properly manipulated. When you go to bed at night to rest, the muscle continues to tighten and results in hypertonic muscle spasms.
Chronic Muscular Hypertonicity
Chronic muscular hypertonicity may result from long-term performance of repetitive motion (e.g., at work); from long-term emotional distress (i.e., heightened tension), or from trauma (reflexive retraction from pain upon injury that persists through healing). In all cases, muscular tension begins as a momentary response and becomes chronic/automatic through habituation. It often persists even during sleep.
Whether muscular hypertonicity results from pain (i.e., from guarding against pain) or produces it, the results are the same: reduced movement, decreased circulation, and accumulation of lactic acid in the involved muscle tissue.
Habituated contraction can accumulate in "layers" (with multiple episodes of heightened tension), often to crisis proportions, as often happens with back pain.
Habitually tight muscles interfere with movement and interfere with their muscular antagonists; fatigue, stiffness, and soreness result.
Chronic co-contraction of extensors and flexors is one mechanism by which unresolved muscular tension persists. When the extensors and flexors of the trunk co-contract, they shorten the spine and compress the intervertebral discs; this is a common origin of disc degeneration and radiculopathy.
Whether muscular hypertonicity arises from physical or emotional origin, the result is the same: lactic acid build-up and joint compression.
Chronic Passive Tension
Muscles rely on blood and oxygen for nourishment and to keep them healthy. When they’ve been over-used or used in a repetitive motion, they will fatigue and tighten. This tightening restricts the blood flow to the tissue. In a sense, this tightening "starves" the muscle. The body’s way of compensating is to make its own energy source to feed the muscles. The problem with this is that lactic acid is a by-product of this production. Once lactic acid builds up, muscles will continue to tighten, loose their tonicity, have less stamina, and begin to take on a rigid quality. (You might feel something like a hard knot or a ropey length of muscle). It may become painful. Most people will ignore it, and the body will compensate by having some of the smaller muscles take over. At this point the pain may diminish for a time. But since the smaller muscles aren’t meant to carry the load of the larger muscle, they’ll fatigue in a short amount of time. Once this happens, pain returns. As you continue to use the muscles daily, the process continues. Soon the muscles will be working and contracting even though they’re in a passive (resting) state. If you notice stiffness when you get up from sitting for awhile, or pain first thing in the morning that goes away after you’re up and moving - this is a sign of chronic passive tension. The muscles have continued to work even though the body was at rest, so they will be tight and contracted. Then once you’re up and moving, (the heart is pumping harder during activity), blood is able to get back into these tight muscles. The pain lessens or goes away . . . until you’re at rest again.
Some people believe stretching helps. Although stretching has its benefits, it doesn’t change the condition of the muscle. As a result, the pain usually returns until you do something to help the muscle return to a healthier state. Stretching will increase your range of motion, but doesn’t do much for the "resting" length of the muscle. If the resting muscle length hasn’t been changed, the muscle will still be tight when at rest and blood flow will once again be restricted. Until you change the tone/condition of the muscle while it’s at rest and re-train the muscles to hold proper body alignment, the tension in the muscle will return. Muscle memory is powerful and is ingrained through repeated practice.
Relieve overworked Muscles, Stiffness, Cramps and Muscle Pains
Infrared saunas work with the use of infrared energy wavelengths. These wavelengths pierce anywhere from 1-2 inches deep into the human body. The energy directly affects the muscles which often become stiff due to everyday activities and stress. Heat relaxes the muscles and allows them to loosen up and regain their elasticity. The infrared heat also makes the muscles more flexible and gives them a larger range of motion. In addition it also provides relief from cramps and joint pain.
Infrared heat boosts blood circulation due to increasing temperatures within the body. The heart pumps faster which leads to an increased heart rate. This increase dilates blood vessels, which then carry more blood to different body parts and muscles. Infrared heat also helps break down our body’s lactic acid deposits. Lactic acid forms deposits in muscles, leading to muscle cramps, tightening and fatigue in the body.
Infrared heat has also been shown to work well on muscle pains of the lower back, arthritis and other joint problems. Giving the muscles total relaxation will lead to better, undisturbed sleep without anxieties and pain.
Many people over the age of 40 suffer with "Chronic Passive Tension".
Vitamin B5 (also calcium pantothenate) is an antioxidant nutrient that helps the body inhibit the formation of damaging free radicals. It is vital to human metabolism, and it also stimulates the healing process. Its deficiency is associated with hypertension and tachycardia (rapid heart beat).
Pantothenic acid is readily absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract. It is stored in high amounts in the adrenal glands but about 70% of absorbed pantothenic acid is excreted in the urine. Before pantothenic acid is utilized it must first be converted to the sulfur-containing pantotheine. Pantotheine is currently fairly expensive and should be used only in select cases.
The best food sources are royal jelly, brewer’s yeast, wheat germ, wheat bran, whole-grain breads and cereals, green vegetables, peas, beans, peanuts, crude molasses, liver and egg yolk. The highest levels are found in beef liver at 4.8mg per 3 ounces.
Pantothenic Acid is water-soluble and stable in moist heat, but unstable in dry heat and acid or basic pH situations. Little is lost during normal cooking but 50% loss occurs in vegetables when they are frozen and 65% when they are canned. In addition, processed and refined grains lose about 50%, while processed meats lose up to 70% of vitamin B5.
A common stable form of pantothenic acid is Calcium Pantothenate, a common ingredient in many supplemental formulas. Other stable forms of pantothenic acid can be found in fresh royal jelly that has been preserved.
Pantothenic acid is the chief precursor to coenzyme A (CoA), a necessary enzymatic co-factor in the biochemistry of man. CoA plays a major role in the metabolism of fatty acids, cholesterol, amino acids, vitamins A and D, steroid hormones and much more. To enumerate all the functions of CoA would take several pages. A deficiency in pantothenic acid affects the adrenal gland, the immune system, the cardiovascular system as well as the overall metabolism of lipids. While severe deficiencies are rare, many systems are compromised by insufficient pantothenic acid.
Increase blood circulation to affected muscles, increase pantothenic acid intake, combined with proper exercise and restful sleep.
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