Massage & Bodywork

July/August 2013

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Page 109 of 140

technique @work | the science of movement | Energy work | Myofascial techniques Treating Adaptive Muscle Patterns By Mary Ann Foster 1 In the last column (May/June 2013, page 107), we looked at improving mechanical advantage with optimal posture by aligning the center of weight in each body mass—the head, thorax, and pelvis—along the line of gravity. Ideal posture is maintained by the slow (tonic) contractions of core postural muscles that stabilize the weight-bearing joints in a neutral position. A joint-neutral posture reflects muscle balance, Concentric which is the relative equality of muscle length and Eccentric Isometric strength between opposing muscle groups.1 Ida Rolf's analogy of a "core and sleeve" to describe postural muscles and prime movers gives us a way to visualize muscle balance.2 In a standing posture, a "core" of postural muscles works quietly and efficiently to stabilize the weight-bearing joints in centered, neutral positions. In a moving body, the alternating concentric and eccentric pulls of a "sleeve" of prime movers power the motion cycle (Image 1). Adaptive Muscle Changes Muscle imbalances often begin as protective responses to pain and worsen under the prolonged mechanical stress of poor posture. Ongoing adaptive changes in muscles can result in myofascial pain and dysfunction in three primary ways: 1. Muscles held in a shortened position for a prolonged period of time undergo adaptive shortening Adaptively Adaptively shortened muscles shortened muscles 2 StretchStretchweakened weakened muscles muscles on the flexed side of a joint (Image 2). In a shortened position, a muscle can generate little or no tension upon contraction. Held in this restricted position, the muscle actually changes its shape, growing shorter and thicker to gain room to contract, but the adaption also reduces range of motion. 2. Adaptive shortening on one side of the body causes adaptive elongation of opposing muscles on the other side. Over time, elongated muscles undergo stretch weakening from working at a mechanical disadvantage in a stretched, loaded position (Image 2). In the case of a flexed posture, the posterior thoracic muscles are eccentrically loaded with the weight of the thorax. The body adapts to the load with a buildup of collagen fibers to shore up the weakened, overstretched muscles, which then become taut, ropy, and stringy. 3. Under conditions of poor posture and pain, postural muscles become inhibited, failing to fire when needed. This leaves the prime movers without core support or stability. To compensate, the muscular sleeve recruits more workers, which reduces the economy of effort and further compounds the overall muscle imbalance. See what benefits await you. 107

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