COLORADO SERENITY – September 2004 (Easing Muscle Pain)
Tracy Saraduke, RN, M.Ac. L.Ac.
3082 Evergreen Parkway, Suite 2
Evergreen, CO 80439
I recently saw a headline that read “…back pain is at epidemic levels…” Specialists have reported that muscular tension is the cause of most physical aches and pains. With pain being so prevalent and muscle tension being such a major contributor, let’s look at how to reduce tension-related problems.
First, what are some of the contributors to the problems?
1. Constant muscle contraction causes muscle tension. Examples: sitting in the same place, especially in an awkward position, or chronically standing in an unnatural posture.
2. Lactic acid accumulates in the muscles, causing knots.
3. Calcium deficiency causes muscle fibers to lock into contracted positions.
4. Caffeine and phosphorus rob the body of calcium.
Place yourself at a desk, holding your arm up to work a mouse or hold the phone to your ear. Now, consume caffeinated beverages that contain phosphates, and you are ripe for major muscle pain.
Next, what are some things that reduce muscle tension?
- Sit up: Slouching restricts circulation, impinges on nerves, causes unnatural organ position, and requires constant muscle activity, creating muscle tension.
- Eliminate the sodas: Carbonated beverages increase muscle tension more than any other consumer product. Sodas are so detrimental because they contain caffeine and phosphorus, two chemicals that rob the body of calcium. Caffeine also stimulates the nerves that control muscles, causing them to partly contract and stay contracted regardless of how you try to relax. Caffeine is a diuretic that saps the body of the two most important minerals in normal muscle function, magnesium and the above-mentioned calcium.
- Relax: Taking mental breaks from work are just as important as physical breaks. If you don’t get both, your tension builds up the same way it does when you don’t get enough sleep. Look into the wealth of information available on stress management and relaxation.
- Get adequate sleep: When we sleep, extra oxygen is delivered to the muscles. The oxygen helps in the process of breaking down lactic acid in the muscles. Sleep also gives the body a chance to heal minor muscle tears that can occur during the day. There are other benefits to getting adequate sleep: improved brain function, a balanced immune system, and normalized metabolism.
- Get regular exercise: Aerobic exercise delivers oxygen to muscles much more quickly than when we sleep. Exercise also strengthens muscles. Weak muscles can be easily overworked, creating lactic acid buildup, leading to muscle tension.
- Get Acupuncture: Acupuncture increases circulation, promotes relaxation, normalizes organ function and immunities, and calms nervous system over-activity. Treatments not only improve overall health, they help address stubborn problems like pain.
Whether you seek help or take steps on your own, you may not have to suffer with every pain, use medication, or resort to surgery. As always, your primary care physician can be a valuable resource in deciding what to do.