What You Should Know About Treating Muscle and Joint Pain

Treating muscle and joint pain is a tricky little thing and can be quite troublesome to everyday activities if not addressed in a timely, appropriate manner. Trying to live through the pain may lead many to a feeling of hopelessness of living pain-free and fears of living a physically restricted life overtime.

Here are three terms in my field that are related to pain and frequently misunderstood: self myofascial release, trigger points, and corrective exercise.

Self myofascial release (SMR): refers to loosening up muscle fascia which is a type of connective tissue that surrounds muscles. It can become “stuck” due to “tight” muscles. Similar to trigger points.

Trigger points: these are sarcomeres (segments of muscle tissue that are meant to change length as the muscle contracts and relaxes) that become stuck, stopping smooth movement. Muscle fibers that have trigger points are not able to contribute to building strength. Trigger points require no energy (i.e., adenosine triphosphate aka ATP) to maintain position. These occur regularly though the majority are naturally corrected. These points can refer pain to other areas of the body. Trigger points can occur in muscles that have adaptively shortened OR lengthened.

Corrective exercise: this refers to exercises that are specifically selected to correct a muscle imbalance and compensation pattern, frequently part of a rehab program. A corrective exercise program generally includes using a roller, ball, or massage gun to address myofascial restrictions and trigger points, then stretches, then isolated exercises to activate an underactive muscle and then integrated exercises so all the muscles around the imbalance can play together.

If you have joint pain or pain during movement and have tried stretching and exercise but without progress, it is likely because you have not first addressed and released the restriction. By conducting assessments on posture and movement, muscle imbalances and movement compensations can be identified and appropriate programming applied.

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