In many cases, the causes of pain are due to injuries or arthritic changes/degeneration to the joints or the structures that support the joints. In other cases, the cause of pain may be due to a strain of the muscles. The strain of the muscles is often very painful, though the effects are typically short-lasting, compared to soft tissue injuries, because the muscles are richly supplied with blood vessels. The body's tissues with rich supplies of blood vessels heal faster than other structures with poor blood supplies, such as joint cartilage, intervertebral discs of the spine, and ligaments. Because the muscles are able to heal themselves relatively quickly, they are typically associated with acute pain injuries, while other musculoskeletal tissues are more often associated with chronic pain injuries. We experience muscle related pain when the muscles themselves become strained, due to overuse or the muscles being overwhelmed.
Due to the muscular injury, the reflexive body response causes the muscle to contract and maintain this state of muscle contraction. This state of heightened muscular tension restricts movement of that part of the body, which is an adaptive response to protect the body against injury. Often these muscle contractions are very painful and disruptive to the patient's life, though these injuries are typically associated with acute pain conditions, such as acute back pain. Once the injury heals, the muscle tension drops to previously healthy levels. In some cases, though, these muscles remain tense long after the original injury has healed itself. When this occurs, the patient may suffer from chronic pain, and the nerves associated with these muscles remain in a state of elevated activity, where they misfire at a heightened rate of signals to the brain, at levels causing painfully highly elevated states of muscular tension. To release chronic muscle tension, various release techniques have been developed.
Some of the most well-known release techniques include Myofascial Release and the Strain-Counterstrain Technique.
Myofascial Release: Myofascial release is a soft tissue therapy that is designed to loosen the fibers of muscle fibers and structures known as the fascia, which are the connective tissue coverings of the muscles. The fascia is also a web of interconnected tissues that support other soft tissues in the body, such as the tendons, ligaments, and joint capsules. Just like the muscles and joints may become injured, the connective tissue coverings of these structures may also become injured. The webbing of connective tissue known as the fascia, may become injured after more than one period in which certain structures are injured and heal themselves. Due to certain traumatic injuries and other musculoskeletal conditions the fibers in the fascia may become broken and remade, causing them to heal differently and affect the body differently, as in cases such as the buildup of scar tissue following injuries and surgery. Other causes may change the structure of the fascia, such as poor posture and elevated stress levels, as may occur in conditions such as fibromyalgia. The goal of myofascial release is to loosen the fibers is the fascia and muscles that have not healed properly, using treatments such as heat therapy and flexibility exercises. The myofascial release treatments may have the benefit of stretching the connective tissues of the fascia and in loosening areas of concentrated tightness, known as trigger points.
Strain-Counterstrain Technique: The strain-counterstrain technique is a treatment designed to affect the neurologic activity at areas at the ends of muscles, which go are prone to go into spasm because of the way they are programmed to behave. These sensory areas are located in the tendons of the muscles, which connect muscle to bone. These sensory areas are called the muscle spindles and golgi tendon organs. These sensory areas become misprogrammed to send out signals that cause increased muscle tension when the body is being used, and when the body is at rest. The strain-counterstrain techniques are designed to place and hold the body in positions that loosen the muscle and reprogram the sensory structures of the muscles to affect the muscles in a way that makes them behave in normal ways again.
The strain and counterstrain technique involves manipulating the body so that the affected muscles are held in a resting tone. While the muscles are being held in a resting tone, certain neurologic changes occur in the affected structures so that their activity becomes normal again.