|Bodywork Masterclass Series-6|
Understanding the Soft Tissues
Increased tone might also lead to a degree of oedema.
These factors (retention of wastes/ischemia/oedema) result in discomfort and pain.
Discomfort and pain lead to increased or maintained hypertonicity, a self-perpetuating cycle has started.
Inflammation or at least chronic irritation may be a result.
Macrophages are activated as is increased vascularity and fibroblastic activity.
Connective tissue production increases with cross linkage leading to shortened fascia.
Since all fascia/connective tissue is continuous throughout the body any distortions which develop in one region can potentially create distortions elsewhere, so negatively influencing structures which are supported, invested or divided by, or which attach to, the fascia, including nerves, muscles, lymph structures and blood vessels.
The chronic changes which result in the elastic (muscle) tissues lead to chronic hypertonicity and ultimately to fibrotic changes if inflammation has been part of the process.
Hypertonicity in any muscle will produce inhibition of its antagonist muscles.
Chain reactions evolve in which some muscles (postural - Type 1) shorten while others (phasic, active moving - Type ll) progressively weaken.
Because of sustained increased muscle tension ischemia in tendonous structures occurs, as it does in localised areas of muscles and because of tendon strain periosteal pain areas develop.
Abnormal biomechanics develop involving malcoordination of movement with antagonist muscle groups being either hypertonic (for example erector spinae) - or weak (for example weak rectus abdominis group)
Joint restrictions and/or imbalances as well as fascial shortenings evolve.
Neurological reporting stations in hypertonic tissues will bombard the CNS with information regarding their status, leading to a degree of sensitisation of neural structures and the evolution of facilitation - hyper-reactivity of the local nerves - in paraspinal regions or within muscles (trigger points).
The degree of energy wastage due to unnecessarily maintained hypertonicity leads to generalised fatigue.
More widespread functional changes develop - for example affecting respiratory function - with repercussions on the total economy of the body.
In the presence of a constant neurological feedback of impulses to the CNS/brain from neural reporting stations indicating heightened arousal in muscles and other soft tissues there will be increased levels of psychological arousal and an inability to relax adequately with consequent exacerbation of hypertonicity.
Functional patterns of use of a physiologically unsustainable nature will emerge, involving chronic musculoskeletal problems and pain.
At this stage restoration of normal function requires therapeutic input which addresses both the multiple changes which have occurred as well as the need for a reeducation of the individual as to how to use their body, to breathe, carry and use themselves in less stressful ways.
The chronic adaptive changes which develop in such a scenario lead to the increased likelihood of future acute episodes as the chronically tense and fibrotic biomechanical structures attempt to cope with new stress factors resulting from the normal demands of modern living.
This then is the ground on which bodywork operates. Dysfunction which is widespread, and which influences the total economy of the body - its circulation, nervous system, energy status, immune system, drainage and elimination functions, mechanical efficiency and most certainly its emotions. There is no ‘quick fix’ option if long lasting improvement is the objective. A comprehensive understanding of what is happening and a logical plan of action is called for.
In order to make sense of such patterns as they enter our practices we need sound palpation and assessment tools as well as a repertoire of skills with which to help to restore normal function.
About The Author
A practicing naturopath, osteopath, and acupuncturist in the United Kingdom, with over forty years clinical experience, Chaitow is Editor-in-Chief, of the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies
. He regularly lectures in the United States as well as Europe where he instructs......more