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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