My fitness guru, and former New York Yankees strength & conditioning coach Dana Cavalea wrote an excellent post recently about the real reason why your body hurts and it's a must-read:
Consider your body as a series of linked rubber bands. As one gets tight through lengthening, there is then a reaction to the other bands in the system. Each band in the system will experience stress on different parts of the band. Some in the middle and others on the ends (the middle being the muscle belly and the ends being the tendons).
If you need more of an example, get 3 rubber bands, all different sizes and strengths, tie them together and just start pulling them in different ways, intensities and angles.. you will see a chain reaction that takes place in regards to tension and distribution of tension.
The body works the same way. When you introduce "Stress" to the body; like a tough day at work, an altercation or a failed attempt at a business deal, your systemic "tension" goes up making the bands that much tighter.
Since overall tension is now "higher"... any extra lengthening of the bands is now amplified. Muscle tension is now elevated and that has the potential to now "squeeze" and "entrap" your nerves leading to what is known as "neural entrapment."
That squeezing, pressing and entrapment of the nerve leads to irritation. Which can ultimately lead to pain and interruption of normal neural signaling.
The following triage course of action is typical for those experiencing this:
1. You go to see a doctor or professional for any pain/ aches/ discomfort (chiropractor, orthopedic, podiatrist, pain management, primary)
You are then typically given a "treatment" of anti-inflammatories, stretching/ a home stretching plan and/or joint manipulation.
The issue calms slightly, but you are still not feeling great and are definitely not ready for activity.
Nobody addressed the tension on the bands. You must release tension. Here are a few ways to do it:
Heat Therapy (using hot packs)
Trigger Point/ Acupuncture
Hot Salt Baths
Stretching with Deep Breathing (only after one or more of the previous 4 recommendations).
All of the above in combination
Now, since I have addressed the physical modalities and protocols that can be used.. there is a secret culprit that can be tripping your entire system: That is the six inches between your ears which is responsible for dialing tension to dangerous levels as a result of internalizing worst case scenarios, burying stress and not expressing "true and honest" feelings.
By talking to a counselor or coach, having a support system, along with active breathing/ meditation and "slow down" tactics will help you deal with the mental side of pain. Also, limiting stimulants like caffeine can play a major role and prevent you from experiencing panic attacks and muscle strains as a result of systematic stress.
Dr. Sarno was one of the first Doctors to write a book on conquering back pain through your psychology rather than your physicality. He was hyper-focused on understanding the mind-body connection and how it can wreak havoc on the body.
I can validate his findings as most episodes of back pain that I treat take place during higher stress days, weeks and months.
We must also realize that the body perceives repetitive postures and activities as stress. Ex. sitting, one sided sports and poor general posture. Stress is not just limiting to that gut-wrenching feeling of internal anxiety.
Remember, stretching alone will not work..
You must go through the six steps above to free your tension. Free your tension. Free your pain.