Monthly Archive: November 2016

The Basics of Muscular Dysfunction

To continue on our journey of understanding muscular pain and dysfunction; we must first define and understand a few words, and how these words that seem unrelated, are, in reality, very related in regards to meaning and/or function.

To explain this idea, we must start with defining these base words so that we can get to the correlations of them with regards to pain. Let’s start with a word most people have heard before regarding a particular muscular condition.

(Muscular) Dystrophy:

1.Medicine/Medical. Faulty or inadequate nutrition or development.

2.Pathology. Any of a number of disorders characterized by weakening, degeneration, or abnormal development of muscle.

In Greek, dys means abnormal, bad, difficult, or disordered; trope means “a change, turn”. So in the case of Muscular Dystrophy, there is a change or turn in the strength or development of the muscle.

The same would be true of the word Atrophy, coming from the Greek word “a” meaning “to do without” and the word trope, which or course means “a change, or turn.”

So Atrophy means that your muscles are without change, which is the same as saying there is stagnation. It means that there is insufficient movement; you are too sedentary. This is because movement produces a change in the condition of the muscle, which is why exercise is so important; it promotes movement. However, what is even more important is the type of exercise you do, and the methodology you use in doing it.

Movement produces heat. When you move, the muscle expands and extends, but when you don’t move, the muscle contracts and shortens. Additionally, movement also causes increased circulation of both the blood and the lymph fluids.

I realize that it sounds crazy that your muscles contract when you aren’t using them. One would think that muscle contraction happens only when you do something like pumping weights, like bicep curls. The truth is that any time you bend any part of your body, whether at the waist, or an appendage, like your fingers, arms, legs or feet; any bend causes a contraction in which the muscle retracts from an extended position. That action is a contraction which causes the muscle to shorten.

So think about it. How many times do you contract your muscles in any given day when you are home or in your element? If you could calculate each and every time there is a contraction, and keep track of what muscles are contracting in the course of your day; what I’m saying now might be easier to understand.

But, when you think about this, try to then calculate how many times those contractions happened from your childhood until now; however old you are. Now try to add in how much more you contract them when performing skills related to your occupation? Are you starting to get the picture?

This image, from, demonstrates the difference in the muscle when it is contracted, versus when it is not.


No doubt, by now, you are starting to see how much  your muscles are being contracted over time. Even if you are sedentary most of the time, sitting at an office cubicle or in front of a computer, you are in a contracted state; and for how long? The longer the period of time, the shorter the muscle gets, which explains why, when people get old, they say old age is horrible, and full of pain.

Their muscles are all over contracted because they never took care of them properly by stretching regularly (and I don’t mean the type of stretching a cat does). When they get older, they cannot move without pain and/or shaking because they no longer have the same range of motion (ROM) that they formerly had. All their muscles have shortened and gotten hard, and they cannot fully extend anymore.

Your arms are contracted at the elbow if you are writing or typing, your fingers are contracted for those two movements as well. Additionally, you are sitting, so your abs are contracted along with your calves and quads, while your hamstrings are overstretched; and even if you have a chair with a back support, your posture could still be bad.

If your hamstrings are overstretched, your gluts and back are also. When the front side is contracted, the back side is overstretched, just like when the right side is over-contracted, the left side is overstretched. This is the seesaw theory.

Releasing these muscles requires first, a knowledge of what muscles directly affect certain areas or segments of the body causing pain. This is the only way to correct the problems with over-contracted and over stretched muscles, because where you feel the pain is not always the source.

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What Is The Connection Between The Gut And Low Back Pain?

If you were to study all the great nations in history, you might find a disturbing pattern emerging – that as the nation rises, excess in all areas rise as well. Evidence would typically be in advances made, but has anyone ever noticed that as a nation rises, so do waistlines? Has anyone ever looked at pain or health problems rising in conjunction with the rise of a nation? I think this is especially prevalent if the nation becomes an economic super power for a good number of years.

large-1464362223-1273-diet-drinks-linked-to-expanding-waistlines-in-older-adultsI’m reminded of the King of Bashan in the biblical book of Deuteronomy. The name Bashan means “plenty,” or “fat.” When I read about that nation, I was reminded of the U.S. I wondered if people in that country were suffering from low back pain. I mean, even if I factor imbalances out of the picture, I still see a problem developing.

How Much You Eat Matters
Depending on how you eat, you could be causing or exacerbating the back problem you have. What do I mean? There are several factors related to diet that can affect your back. The first one is an expanded waistline.

It’s not just what you eat, but the volume or quantity that you eat as well. There are very active, slim people who don’t understand that sometimes, being overweight is a cultural thing. It’s not an excuse, but if you come from a background of an island nation, food is pushed on you in large quantities. Not eating a full plate and asking for seconds is an insult to the cook. For people with that type of family tradition, they have to have the self confidence to break tradition, and bear the brunt of perceived insults in order to try to maintain their health. This can be a battle by itself, and cause significant stress, which does not help a pain problem.

Additionally, high quantities gives the digestive system excess work, especially if proper food combining was not done, and the foods are unnatural, prepackaged foods. In such cases, the food you ate could sit in your stomach as long as 12 hours, unable to be properly digested. If that happens, the food is spoiling – rotting and fermenting in your stomach, especially because more improperly combined foods are added throughout the course of the day; so the cycle of rotting, undigested food doesn’t end.

This in turn, depletes your storage of energy. Your digestive system has to work overtime trying to get rid of this rotted food while you are consistently dumping more improperly combined foods in large quantities into the mess that your system is already fighting with. Eventually, the system becomes overwhelmed, and as a result, you’ll suddenly become very sleepy in the middle of the day.

What You Eat Matters
The amount you eat matters, but as you see above, the content matters too. Remember the words made immortal by the artist, Barry White.

“Too much of anything is not good for you, baby,”

He’s talking about love, but I see that statement as a reference to an imbalanced state in any area. Most pain is the result of imbalances first, and foremost. So if you are a meat and potatoes eater, and the question, “Eat anything green?” makes you cringe; chances are high that you are out of balance. This brings us right back to the issue of culture and tradition.

In America, capitalism rules. Companies and medical professionals only care about, and/or push real, healthy lifestyles and dietary habits, if they can find a way to make it profitable for themselves. Monsanto is proof that thus far, sickness, disease and death is more profitable than health as far as big business is concerned.

Thus far in this country, the culture is, and has been towards unhealthy lifestyles; and treated with unnatural foods and medical treatments that are symptomatic not healing. To say that our culture is imbalanced is a colossal understatement, that is evidenced by the overwhelming amount of obese people, and the rampant onslaught of disease and sicknesses that plague this country, and any other with the same culture and dietary habits.

How Does This Affect Or Cause Low Back Pain?
First, the high sodium in prepackaged foods can cause an escalation in your blood pressure. If you are overweight, that’s a real problem, because there is already excessive pressure on the blood vessels due to the excess flesh of your body compacting and basically crushing them.

This, I believe, is the reason that heavier people tend to have much more pressure sensitivity when getting a massage. Everything is so much more sensitive when it’s compacted and crushed together. It used to surprise me when I’d work on some petite person, and they liked very deep pressure.

Yet, many overweight people I’ve worked on could barely stand to be touched, because of the pressure already present on inflamed trigger points. I, myself have some sensitivities when being massaged; but for me, it’s not so much about pressure than it is the technique of the therapist working on me. I love pressure. I don’t like to be poked and jabbed. This is why I work on myself, predominantly.

The Cabbage Soup Catastrophe
My point, however, is that too much self-imposed pressure can cause pain. Case in point, my misadventure with the cabbage soup diet. Years ago, I tried the cabbage soup diet, and it did cause me to lose 15 lbs., the first week. However, upon continuing the following week, I ran into a problem.

Even now, I’m not sure if this diet works better if the cabbage is completely blended up, and the soup is consumed as a liquid only. My understanding at the time that this diet was popular, was that some was supposed to be blended up, and some cooked until soft, for easier digestion.

Personally, I love cabbage, and I also loved the cabbage soup. However, as Barry told us, too much is not good for you. In particular, too much roughage can cause inflammation in the intestinal tract. So while I was losing weight, I hit my body’s limit of roughage, and my colon became enflamed and swollen from the irritation of too much roughage from the cabbage soup.

The result was severe low back pain, that pretty much left me immobile for several days. “ Ok,” you say, “ So I won’t overdo it with cabbage.” But, let me give you another wake up call. You see, I know that some of you meat and potato folks are elated that I’ve just proven that too much vegetables can be harmful, but remember, Barry said, “Too much of anything is not good for you.” Excess in anything can be harmful.

What About Constipation?
So while you meat and potatoes people are enjoying your moment, let me provide another example to you. My sister-in-law used to have an ongoing battle with constipation. I don’t know that it is still an issue, because she increased her intake of vegetables, and eats lots of salads now.

However, her cultural background is Mexican. Her family loves cheese. They put it on pretty much everything, much like Italians and several other cultures. Diary causes excessive mucus formation, which is horrible if you have any sort of sinus or bronchial problem. It’s especially problematic if you live in a part of the country that has a high amount of pollen floating around.

In addition to mucus formation, which is also the result of meat or flesh consumption; diary not only causes inflammation in the body, but it also causes constipation, especially if you eat a lot of cheese. This sounds funny, but consuming diary products, especially eating a lot of cheese is the equivalent of plugging your anus with a large cork. The reason that I say this is because the baby calf that that milk was made for grows into an animal that weighs about a half a ton.

So what does that say about the expansion rate of our waistlines if we consume that same product?  There are a ridiculous variety of “foods” containing dairy products that would result in people consuming excessive quantities of it. We’d be ever expanding, and constipated and/or impacted; thus the corking concept. And FYI, being impacted can also cause low back pain.

I had a client that this happened to. I had to advise him on his diet and some supplements that helped break up the constipation. Shortly thereafter, his bowels moved and his low back pain, which had kept him housebound on the couch for several days with ice packs, dissipated.

We were made from part earth and part spirit. We grow like plants, looking like walking trees. Many of our organs and body parts look like vegetables; the cerebellum looks a bit like cauliflower; there are “broccoli” shaped “trees” in our lungs that help us breath. So it behooves us to eat to feed the plants within…the plant we are. After all, as the saying goes, you are what you eat. Garbage in, garbage out. Toxins cause pain. Think about it.