Everything in the body seeks balance or homeostasis. Injury or dysfunction challenge the body to return to balance.
Imagine the musculo-skeletal systems in terms of mechanical levers and weights that balance the body constantly, keeping us in homeostasis. When you bend or move one way, you shorten the angle on one side, you lengthen the angle on the other. (Fig. A) There are counter balances to keep you from going too far in that direction. Those counter balances come in the form of ligaments that connect bone to bone, tendons that connect muscle to bone, muscle, which allows for the change of angle of a bone, and fascia which connects everything.
Bend forward at the waist. The muscles in the front of your legs help to pull you forward, along with several abdominal muscles. However, the muscles on the back of your legs, your buttocks, and back, control the action of forward bending (Fig. B) and enable you to stand upright again.
Some muscles, when they are stressed, lengthen (Phasic Muscles). Others shorten in response to stress (Postural Muscles). Imagine that you have broken your foot. You have a walking cast to protect the bones from further injury. The weight of the boot or the cast plus the pain when you step on the broken foot, causes you to shift your weight to the opposite side. You are now bearing the majority of your weight on the unaffected side. Now the balance that existed in the connective tissues and muscular tensions between the right side and the left side of the body and between the front and the back side of the body have been changed, from the unaffected foot all the way to the head and back down the affected side. The previous balance before the injury helped to keep you in an upright position. Now you must change the tensions throughout the body to restore balance and keep you upright.
The body works like a series of cogs
There is interdependence and influence, such that when one thing changes, others must follow. Remember that I said some muscles in response to stress will lengthen and some in response to stress will shorten. This creates or increases imbalance throughout the body, forcing muscles to do jobs which they were not specifically designed to perform, in order to maintain homeostasis or balance.
So how do we escape the distortions of muscles and connective tissues that occur in response to imbalance? How do we restore balance?
The longer an imbalance persists, the greater the potential toward a permanent dysfunction. If the problem lasts for years, structural changes can take place in muscle and bone. Collagen (a component of connective tissue which gives flexibility and strength to the tissue) is laid down in direct proportion to the stress (or lack of stress) placed on it. (Wolf’s Law)
The key then, is to get the pain under control in order to not favor the affected side. Pain medications and muscle relaxants, prescribed by a physician, can help with this. Your massage therapist will help to relax the muscles that have become excessively tight (hypertonic) using Control Muscle Release Therapy, myofascial techniques or some other type of muscle therapy.
Time is of the essence.
It is important to get help at the beginning of any injury. When you have been injured, first see your physician, go to an emergency room or immediate care facility for treatment. After the first 48 to 72 hours have passed, see a massage therapist to help restore balance to muscles, tendons, ligaments and connective tissues.