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It's Just a Muscle... Or, is it?

Massage helps sore muscles in so many ways. It moves cells waste products out allowing for better nutrition and oxygenation. It reduces the tension. It breaks up adhesions and scar tissue. It interrupts the cycle of contraction, pain and reflex contraction. And, it just feels good.


“It’s just a muscle” is a phrase I‘ve heard many times. People use this phrase when asked what's wrong. 'It's just a muscle' describes the effect but not the cause. The problem is never just a muscle. Muscles are “stupid”. They can’t do a thing by themselves. If you have tension, knots or kinks or spasms, the muscle is the effect and it hurts, but it’s not the problem. It’s the sign of the real problem. The real problem is one level up in the system. The thing that controls and tells muscles to contract is a nerve. With the exception of cardiac muscle cells, muscles can’t contract without the nerve firing. So, if the muscle is in a knot, the nerve IS firing. But why is the nerve firing?


Well, that’s the thing that must be analyzed to try to get it normalized again. Normally, nerves fire from the motor center in the brain by volition, or by your thoughts if you will. Abnormally, and fortunately rarely, nerves fire from unusual and rare brain conditions like tumors or Parkinson’s Syndrome. Also, abnormally but very common is nerves firing from external stimulus along the nerve pathway not in the brain but down the spinal cord on the way to the tissue cell it controls.


One example is very well known, carpal tunnel syndrome. Which is pressure from the carpal bones in the wrist exerting pressure on the median nerve as it passes through to the hand. The irritating stimulus goes both down the hand to fingers and up median nerve to the forearm. The forearm muscles become very sor


e from continual contraction and it’s usually accompanied by abnormal sensations like tingling or numbness in the hand and fingers.

And, people who say “I carry my stress in my shoulders” are correct. There’s irritated nerves that cause the shoulder and upper back muscles to contract when the brain isn’t directing it. This results in chronic upper back pain, shoulder and neck pain and headaches. The problem seems like tight muscles and there ARE tight muscles. The


y hurt but they’re not the problem. The problem is the nerves causing the muscles to tighten. Could it be a brain tumor? It is possible but highly unlikely. I’ve never seen it.


What it most likely is caused by is subluxation in the spine so as the nerve exits the spine, it gets irritated and fires incessantly. Wherever that nerve goes, that tissue is going to do what that tissue does when the nerve signal comes. If it’s a muscle it can only do one thing and that’s contract. As long as the signal is there it will stay in some level of contraction. Knots, spasm, kink…. Whatever you want to call it in your upper back. But the problem isn’t the muscle, it’s the nerve. The muscle is the effect. (If the nerve goes to your stomach, you’re going to have a ‘nervous stomach’. To your colon? Diarrhea/constipation. To your heart, blood pressure and rhythm problems. Your blood vessels in your head, headaches. Your lungs or sinus? Allergies/asthma. You get the idea.


You can erase the muscle effects for awhile by getting a massage but if the nerve irritation remains, the effect will be back. To identify the cause, it requires an image of the spine and analysis by somebody who knows what to look for. If you’ve had x-rays at a hospital or medical clinic, they are reported as normal if there’s simply no fractures or tumors. That’s a wonderful service after a car accident or falling out of tree but a very low bar for performance if you want to know really how your body works. Determining how your body works requires looking at the structure that protects and houses the nerves. So, it requires an additional mores sophisticated measurement of the structures, not simply ruling out a tumor. In addition to screening for fractures and tumors, we measure the discs, joints, alignment, curve from front to back and no curve side to side (no scoliosis). That’s what people are evaluated for here. It's a very precises and close examination of the structure to make sure the function will be normal. Normal function follows normal structure. It is very difficult to have normal function with abnormal structure.


Let's say you have abnormal structure, and if you took 2 hours out of your day to get a massage, you DO. Otherwise, you would not make time for it. So, what can be done about abnormal structure? Well, I’m glad you asked. First, it’s not always possible to fix it. But it's always possible to help it.


Some people think chiropractic adjustment corrects structure. It doesn’t. It makes it possible. The structure is corrected by homework, exercise and supports. Not a lot, but gentle pressure over time. We will show you how. And, we take a follow up image to make sure you are getting it right and adjust course and exercises if necessary. The goal is to normalize the spine, to normalize the nerves, to normalize the muscles' (and organs) tone so that your body can adapt to environmental stressors rather than be stressed out by what’s going on INSIDE the body. By the way, that's what the definition of health is, simply adapting to the environment.


Start where you are. Everyone can be healthier. We're here to help.


Dr. Barrett


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