Why do muscles tense up when we have an injury?
Injuries to the back occur more often in the muscles than in the skeleton or nerves because the muscles are under the greatest amount of daily stress. Back muscles work constantly to provide support for your spine. If your muscles are weak and underdeveloped, almost any activity can result in a muscle strain or tear, and that carries with it the added risk of damage to a vertebra, nerve or disk.
The greatest risk comes with lifting a heavy object. The muscles’ ability to undertake any given task without injury depends on their strength and flexibility. How we perform a task is also important.
When we have an injury, other muscles around the injury site tense up. Actually they act as splinting or bracing to preventing the body from further movement to the injured area - it’s a natural response. This reduced movement and sensation of pain prevents us creating more damage to the area. In time the tension should reduce, but this is not always the case. The tension or holding pattern becomes a habit. Long term tension causes a collogen (string like protein) to be deposited in the area, forming hard knots in the affected muscles. This is why it usually takes longer to heal an untreated old injury than a new one, as the muscles have been trained to be in a new position.
The ideal treatment for a new injury (once the inflammation has subsided) is to
For several years I had a very sore neck and shoulders. This was caused by a boating injury where I actually damaged my hip. Because my hips were crooked my head sat differently on my shoulders – and this caused neck pain. After a year I decided to go to a gym and met an osteopath. He assessed me, put my hips back into alignment and gave me exercises to do in the gym. After several months the weak muscles in my body became tones, and the overtoned muscles relaxed and stretched (they did not have so much work to do). Gradually my body formed a new habit and I no longer had pain in the neck.
Click here to find out more about my Beginner's Massage course 2/3 April 2016
This information was copied and paraphrased from the following books:
Facilitated Stretching – R E McAtee and J Charland
Stretching and Flexibility – K Laughlin
Overcome Neck and Back Pain – K Laughlin
PilateSystem – T Blount and E McKenzie
Elayne Lane is an instructor of the Universal Healing Tao. She has been teaching and doing bodywork in excess of 14 years.