Muscle cramps and muscle guarding are two different phenomena. However, they both involve our muscles contracting without our conscience giving them permission. So let's talk about these two conditions together.
All in all there are over 600 skeletal muscles in the human body and they make up about 40%of our body mass. These are muscles that pull bones and other connective tissue, which allow us to move around and change posture or facial expression.
In order to perform these functions, our muscles possess four wonderful qualities:
a. Our muscles are excitable, which allows them to respond to a signal from the nervous system.
b. They are contractile, enabling them to contract and exert the pulling force.
c. They are extensible, making it possible for the muscles to stretch when pulled at by an external force, and finally
d. They are elastic, which makes them return to their resting length.
So, in an ideal situation a muscle reacts to a signal from our brain, contracts, doing its work, and then returns to the relaxed state. This, however, does not always happen. Sometimes a muscle contracts involuntarily with a cramp, or does not return to the neutral state and stays shortened for a long time – days, weeks, indefinitely.
This presents a variety of problems, such as:
a. The cramped muscle is painful - if you’ve had a charley horse, you know how uncomfortable it can get.
b. The cramped muscle is prone to a strain injury.
c. A muscle that stays contracted may restrict circulation of blood and lymph or press against a nerve tissue, sending shooting pain to other parts of the body.
d. Chronically tight hypertonic muscles are weak and unable to perform their functions. They also create postural imbalances, leading to other conditions.
e. Shortened tight muscles develop painful knots called trigger points, which further shorten and weaken the affected muscles. And the list goes on.
Fortunately these conditions can be treated, or at least relieved by massage. As your massage therapist I will assess your body and attempt to identify the muscles, which are short and tight. The next step is to understand why. In some cases the hypertonicity has a useful function and should not be relieved.
And finally, there is the actual treatment. This is what I do. There are many tools at our disposal to calm down your stressed muscles. As usual, it will actually be your own body and your own central nervous system that will do the healing. We’ll just ask them nicely to do so.