The body is made up of muscles and fascia that can be thought of as myofascial chains or linked muscular tissue systems. When the fascia is healthy it is smooth and flexible. The fascia is a thin layer of connective tissue that envelopes and holds each:
- Blood vessel
- Nerve fiber
The tissue provides and supports the body’s internal structure. However, the fascia is also made up of nerves that can be as sensitive as the skin. Stress, injury, strain, overuse, etc can cause it to tighten up. The fascia can appear as a large sheet of tissue. But it is made up of multiple layers with hyaluronan fluid that lubricates and increases the elasticity of the surfaces. It is made to stretch with movement. It can dehydrate, tighten around the muscles, limiting mobility, and causing painful knots to develop.
Symptoms can be felt throughout the body’s myofascial chains, but are often intensified in the lower back and neck. They include:
- Aching muscle pain
- Pain that does not stop or worsens and does not ease up
- Tender knots felt around the muscles
- Excessive pressure on muscles or joints that present pain
- Sleep issues from the pain or discomfort
Factors that can cause the fascia to go through adhesion or become sticky/gluey, and wrinkled include:
- A sedentary lifestyle with limited or no physical activity
- Overuse/Repetitive movements that overwork a certain area of the body
- Trauma – automobile accident, work/personal injury
Overuse, underuse, or acute injury can cause adhesion in:
It is like having sticky glue in the muscles, causing a reduction in the range of motion and flexibility.
Pain can be generated from the skeletal muscle or connective tissues being held down by tight or tightening fascia. The pain can also come from damaged myofascial tissue. This can happen where muscle fibers contract causing restriction, specifically at a trigger point. Or a muscle contraction can block proper blood flow to the structures, which keep the contraction process going until the area is treated.
Tissue tightness that restricts movement or pulls the body out of alignment. This will cause an individual to favor the side of the body that is not hurting. An example is individuals with low back pain or sciatica will lean to one side. However, now they are overusing that hip creating a set up for more injuries.
Myofascial chains include the front/anterior, and back/posterior chain. The back connects the following structures:
Force can be transmitted along the chain between the lat, the lumbar fascia, and the glute max. For example, tight lats can limit shoulder motion and cause impingement.
A chiropractor can use a variety of examination and treatment techniques for myofascial pain. A chiropractor trained in differential diagnosis is especially helpful if the pain is felt in one place, but the actual root cause is in another area, specifically going along the myofascial chain. Treatments can include:
- Massage targeting the affected muscle with the intent of loosening up the tissues to alleviate pain.
- Myofascial release therapy releases muscle tightness and shortness.
- Stretches can help lengthen the muscles and relieve tension.
Everybody experiences muscle pain now and again after a hard workout or from work involving movements the body is not used to. The muscles need time to heal for the pain to go away. This is usually a few days. However, in some cases, the muscles never stop hurting and can start to hurt more intensely.
Individuals initially think this is normal, especially if continuing to work out or engage in strenuous movements while the muscles are healing. This pain is not normal and could be a sign that the body is experiencing myofascial pain syndrome. Myofascial pain can lead to chronic pain and can cause an individual’s quality of life to decline. Fortunately, chiropractic manipulation can help with instability relieving low back pain symptoms and improving lumbar function.
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Xiao, Qing-Ming et al. Zhongguo gu shang = China journal of orthopaedics and traumatology vol. 33,10 (2020): 928-32. doi:10.12200/j.issn.1003-0034.2020.10.008