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  • Writer's pictureBob Holzman LMT

Updated: Sep 6, 2022

When we have pain, discomfort or a feeling of tightness in our muscles, it is common to stretch or massage the discomfort out.

The problem with being fixated to that approach, is that just because it hurts or "feels tight" doesn't mean it is tight (as in a shorted muscle). More often than not, I see that people have pain and a perception of tightness in muscles that are actually over stretched or very under active. By under active, I mean under developed, or not firing properly (not receiving proper communication form the nervous system).

A very common example is lateral low back pain. Hip hike is when one side of the pelvis is higher than the other, giving the appearance of one leg being longer than the other. Pain is often felt in the Quadratus Lumborum (QL). Logically one would think the pain would be felt on the side where the muscle is short and tight, but the opposite is nearly always true (in my clinical experience). It is the QL and multifidus muscles that are over stretched and have very little muscle tone to them, that elicits the pain. Because of that, people stretch that side, and only that side, day after day, and then come in to have it released more through massage.

After proper assessment, I am able to communicate the imbalance to my clients and explain to them that we will be relaxing the side that is working too much (the high hip side) and strengthening that side that hurts. They then go home after learning how to properly stretch the side that doesn't hurt, and strengthen the side that hurts.

Whether seeking relief from acute or chronic pain, if you want long term results, it is best to figure out what is causing the pain, rather than focusing on the site of pain. It is much like the concentric rings that are formed when you drop a pebble into a still body of water. We might feel the pain in the 10th ring out, but the cause of that 10th ring came from the pebble at the center ring.

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The following is a research article on fascia, published in the Frontiers in Physiology. If you would like to read the full article, please select the PDF at the end.

Edited by: Marc-Antoine Custaud, Université d’Angers, France Reviewed by: Loïc Treffel, Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1, France Laurence Stevens, Lille University of Science and Technology, France *Correspondence: Robert Schleip Specialty section: This article was submitted to Clinical and Translational Physiology, a section of the journal Frontiers in Physiology Received: 02 October 2018 Accepted: 13 March 2019 Published: 02 April 2019 Citation: Schleip R, Gabbiani G, Wilke J, Naylor I, Hinz B, Zorn A, Jäger H, Breul R, Schreiner S and Klingler W (2019) Fascia Is Able to Actively Contract and May Thereby Influence Musculoskeletal Dynamics: A Histochemical and Mechanographic Investigation. Front. Physiol. 10:336. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2019.00336 ORIGINAL RESEARCH published: 02 April 2019 doi: 10.3389/fphys.2019.00336 Fascia Is Able to Actively Contract and May Thereby Influence Musculoskeletal Dynamics: A Histochemical and Mechanographic Investigation Robert Schleip1,2,3*, Giulio Gabbiani4, Jan Wilke5, Ian Naylor6, Boris Hinz7, Adjo Zorn3, Heike Jäger8, Rainer Breul9, Stephanie Schreiner8 and Werner Klingler3,10 1 Department of Neuroanesthesiology, Neurosurgical Clinic, Ulm University, Günzburg, Germany, 2 Department of Sports Medicine and Health Promotion, Friedrich Schiller University Jena, Jena, Germany, 3 Fascia Research Group, Experimental Anesthesiology, Ulm University, Ulm, Germany, 4 Department of Pathology and Immunology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland, 5 Department of Sports Medicine, Institute of Sport Science, Goethe University Frankfurt, Frankfurt, Germany, 6 School of Pharmacy, University of Bradford, Bradford, United Kingdom, 7 Laboratory of Tissue Repair and Regeneration, Matrix Dynamics Group, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada, 8 Division of Neurophysiology, Ulm University, Ulm, Germany, 9 Anatomische Anstalt, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, München, Germany, 10 Faculty of Health School – Clinical Sciences, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, QLD, Australia

Fascial tissues form a ubiquitous network throughout the whole body, which is usually regarded as a passive contributor to biomechanical behavior. We aimed to answer the question, whether fascia may possess the capacity for cellular contraction which, in turn, could play an active role in musculoskeletal mechanics. Human and rat fascial specimens from different body sites were investigated for the presence of myofibroblasts using immunohistochemical staining for α-smooth muscle actin (n = 31 donors, n = 20 animals). In addition, mechanographic force registrations were performed on isolated rat fascial tissues (n = 8 to n = 18), which had been exposed to pharmacological stimulants. The density of myofibroblasts was increased in the human lumbar fascia in comparison to fasciae from the two other regions examined in this study: fascia lata and plantar fascia [H(2) = 14.0, p < 0.01]. Mechanographic force measurements revealed contractions in response to stimulation by fetal bovine serum, the thromboxane A2 analog U46619, TGF-β1, and mepyramine, while challenge by botulinum toxin type C3–used as a Rho kinase inhibitor– provoked relaxation (p < 0.05). In contrast, fascial tissues were insensitive to angiotensin II and caffeine (p < 0.05). A positive correlation between myofibroblast density and contractile response was found (rs = 0.83, p < 0.001). The hypothetical application of the registered forces to human lumbar tissues predicts a potential impact below the threshold for mechanical spinal stability but strong enough to possibly alter motoneuronal coordination in the lumbar region. It is concluded that tension of myofascial tissue is actively regulated by myofibroblasts with the potential to impact active musculoskeletal dynamics.

2019_Fascia Is Able to Actively Contract and May Thereby Influence Musculoskeletal Dynamic
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  • Writer's pictureBob Holzman LMT

I love audio books, but having podcasts as part of my library gives me access to a greater diversity of knowledge. Here are my favorite pod casts for anything pertaining to physical and mental well being, and accessing more of my innate potential.


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