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FIXING ACCUMULATED SHORTNESS -PART 2 -what you're made of
Section 2: Overview. Now for a closer look at your "soft" connective tissue system. This is what your body's made of. And once you know this, you'll easily understand why some of its qualities cause somethings to go "wrong." And that (reversible) condition in the soft connective tissue causes you structural pain and tightness, even when your muscles and nerves seem to be operating OK. This section, and those after it, will give you some down to earth facts that will help you actually fix your problems. Terms like arthritis, fibromyalgia, protruding disks and pinched nerves are only labels for the end result of a body condition. And even though some medical doctors may say they have no cure, nor do they know why it happens, there are reasons. Trained Body professionals have been fixing these reasons for decades.
All of my explanations so far sound nice, you may say. Most everyone wants his or her pains to go away. But how does the treatment actually work. And for that matter, what is soft connective tissue, and how does it get short. Well, I'm glad you asked. Bear with me now as we journey inside our muscles so we can see what they're made of, how they get short and cause us problems, and then how we can fix those problems.
If you looked at a muscle under a microscope you'd see it was made up of many long thin muscle fibers, like rods, and each fiber was made up of many little sections, or segments, that looked, generally speaking, like little soda cans placed end to end. If you could see inside each segment of the rod, you'd notice tiny little protein fibers of two different kinds, and a tiny nerve fibril connecting to its outer shell.
If you could detect what happens when the person wanted to move that muscle, you'd see that when the nerve signals to many muscle fiber segments activated, the muscle fibers contracted. And the two different kinds of protein fibers "magnetically" got pulled toward each other, like opposite ends of a magnet. And that made the muscle fiber segments, and, of course, the whole muscle fiber rod, get shorter. It’s like a lot of little accordions all folding up at the same time.
When the person wants to relax the muscles, the nerve signals stop. And then the segments' little protein fibers get "magnetically" pushed away from each other, like the same ends of a magnet. So the segments go back to the same length they were before. It’s like electronic door locks. Clack, it’s locked. Clack, it opens again.
And basically, that's how we move our muscles, "neuro-muscularly." The little segments contract and lengthen according to how we want to move our muscles. And what tells them to move are the signals we send down from the brain.
The purpose of this booklet is to demystify pains and tightness, so you can have greater control over your life and how you feel. Now that you understand how muscles move, I’ll explain how they get stuck in tightness and pain, even when the doctor says your nerve signals are working OK, and there’s no muscle damage.
When we look into the muscle, we see that all the muscle fibers are arranged in bundles, maybe 50 to 100 of them in a group. And within each bundle, the fibers aren't exactly touching each other. They’re surrounded by a fluid with lots of other, very tiny protein fibers in it, called collagen and elastin. Collagen and elastin fibers form a web that holds the much bigger and longer muscle fiber rods in a shape. And that web can stretch when the muscles move, and then come back to the same shape when the movement stops.
Also inside this fluid are the blood and lymph capillaries that bring your muscle fibers the food and oxygen they need. And through this fluid, they also remove the waste products the fibers generate when they do their thing, when you move around. This fluid also contains fat cells and immune cells. And, of course, it’s called soft connective tissue, or, more technically, fascia (fah-sha).
What wraps up the whole bundle, on its outside, is a wrapping of this same soft connective tissue. It looks something like a cornhusk. It’s an envelope, or a sack. Then, wrapping everything up, is a bigger, thicker sack. It goes around the whole muscle. Now it looks like a muscle, instead of a pile of loose muscle fibers and capillaries.
What enables this blob of muscle fibers and soft connective tissue to operate your bones and joints is pretty obvious when you see it. At the ends of the lengths of the muscle fibers themselves, this soft connective tissue all comes together as tougher, thinner lengths of hard connective tissue, which we call tendons. Tendons, of course, attach the muscle body to the nearby bones.
When the whole muscle contracts, it does so by shortening all the muscle fibers. And that pulls the fascia and tendons too, and the whole network between the bones gets shorter. It pulls the bones toward each other and that’s how you and I bend an elbow or flex an ankle, or even bend over and then stand up again.
Basically speaking, what we feel as tightness is a shortness in the soft connective tissue that doesn’t re-lengthen when the nerve signals stop. And we feel pain when it’s so short that the nerve sensors in the muscles get “tripped.” This shortness is caused by the “bunching up” of the soft connective tissue element, not by anything wrong with the muscle fiber or nerve elements. The soft connective tissue gets condensed, like silly putty.
What makes re-lengthening it a trained skill, is that it gets short all over the body. And we need a special hands-on technique to move it combined with special knowledge about what we call “inter-connectedness,” so that the muscle “system” will release.
Now. doctors and other kinds of health professionals usually approach soft connective tissue from a different point of view than the unique Bodyworkers who correct this systemic tightness. It isn't that they ignore the stuff; it's just that they aren't trained about how it bunches up and how to relengthen it. That's the simple difference.
Basic anatomy classes for everyone describe it the same way. Soft connective tissue, called fascia (fah-sha) is used by nature as the wrappings in each muscle, to hold it all together, and in a bigger wrapping over our whole bodies, to hold everything together, just as I described. And fascia also contains what is called interstitial (inter-sti-shal) fluid, which is the basic fluid that's in the bloodstream, only it's also between the capillaries and the muscle fibers. This fluid is the metabolic avenue, or boulevard, for food and oxygen to get into the cells, for waste to get disposed of out of the cells, and for many immune system activities to dispose of germs and other toxic materials.
So here we have a substance that holds everything together structurally and is also involved at the very cellular level of our nutrition and waste removal, a process sometimes call cell respiration. Our cells breathe. They breathe in the oxygen and foods we take in with our lungs and stomach, and they release what our elimination organs, skin and lungs can take out. From our point of view right now, you should know that how well your cells breathe depends a lot on the "quality" of your fascia.
When you have a lot of waste stuck in the interstitial fluid, you can have an achy feeling or actual pain, either after you ran a 10K Race, after you've been eating junk food for a few days, or at the site of a chronic injury. As soon as you squish out the old fluid with all that junk in it, with a massage, or with intensive yoga, your body stops aching, your headache may go away and you'll probably have more energy and feel better emotionally. You'll also have a few nice long urinations, as the stuff flushes out of your body. This is, in fact, one part of the treatment that is recommended to remove chronic pains.
Experts in the structural field have also found that when the soft connective tissue, or fascia, gets compressed or bunched up, the fluid isn't as good a conduit for nutrients and waste removal. It gets hard and compressed. It's not as big nor as “flowing” a pathway. These experts also found that a properly lengthened soft connective tissue system keeps the muscles in a good "tone," not too tight and not too loose. That un-hardens the tissue itself and removes the compression on the fluid channels. This automatically keeps a healthy blood and lymph flow going through the tissues. And there will be less pain on a regular basis. So, when the structure is properly organized, it makes the metabolism work better, too.
I have had a number of Olympic and other serious athletes tell me that their recovery time from strenuous effort was much shorter and much more comfortable than before, even without getting a recovery massage. A 50-year-old chiropractor told me he was no longer wiped out from his squash and handball workouts. See, more goodies go in and more baddies go out, even during the workouts.
Copyright 2002 Louis A. Gross All Rights Reserved