If a muscle is asked to perform repeatedly any activity to
which it is unaccustomed, such as hill walking, painting a ceiling or
digging the garden it may respond by tightening.
Mental and emotional stress can have the same effect,
usually to the shoulders or buttocks.
A sudden unexpected movement - bending down, slipping
or overstretching, also very frequently damages muscles. This is particularly
likely to happen if the muscles are already tight, and even a slight
muscle tear can cause the muscle fibres around to tighten to protect the
injury, leading to further discomfort and restriction of movement.
Around the site of the injury, the healing muscle
fibres bind together to form "scar tissue", which feels like a
knot of muscle, which prevents individual fibres moving freely.
When a movement is made the knotted fibres pull on the bone and joint and
may make movement painful.
Frequently tightness in a muscle will not produce pain at the site of the
problem, but on a joint or muscle, which is pulled by the action, or
where a tight tendon rubs across a bony prominence. This is
frequently the cause of knee or ankle pain.
The remedial massage therapist will first identify the
source of your problem by looking at which movements are restricted or
painful, and by massaging gently around relevant area to feel where the
muscles are tight or scar tissue occurs. This also begins to
loosen, warm and stretch the tissues around the area. Gradually the
therapist will focus in on the area and massage more deeply into the
fibres, stretching them and breaking apart the "knotted, gummed
Margaret, Lorna and Janet use various techniques derived
from different schools of massage practice: "trigger points"
are tender spots which usually coincide with the points used in
acupuncture and which cause the painful muscle to relax after a few
seconds of focused sustained pressure. Soft tissue manipulation and
connective tissue massage stretch specific parts of a muscle or tendon
and works on the relaxation produced in a muscle after it has contracted.
Margaret and Janet also make use of aspects of Chinese
Medicine including Chinese massage or tuina,
which moves "Qi",
or vital energy away from areas of "stagnation"; moxa is a dried herb
which is burnt over an injured area and gives a deep penetrating healing
warmth; cupping creates a suction over an area of tight or injured muscle
which draws out impurities and loosens the muscle.