The Word of the Day: Pressure
Pressure, as you know, does some pretty amazing things. It turns peat into coal and coal into diamonds. In the human body, it actually has the reverse effect. It takes little diamonds called trigger points and teaches them to relax, and it takes muscle that is stuck together and helps it glide once again. I tell people time after time that you can always tell how healthy a muscle is by applying pressure. Applying pressure to a muscle should really only refer a pressure sensation back to your brain. If you apply pressure to a muscle and get a pain response back, we now know that muscle is irritated, and has some unhealthy characteristics to it. The by-products of muscle energy production are acidic to the nerves. When musculature becomes tight, it is harder for the circulatory system to get healthy blood into the muscle, and export waste out of the muscle. This creates a toxic environment that can cause atrophy, (decrease in size of the muscle) tightness, and ultimately pain. It is worth noting again to keep at the forefront of our mind that pain is a lagging indicator. It really is the last piece to the puzzle. Most people think pain is just the beginning but it is far from it. Pain is telling you something is breaking or already broken. It’s not telling you you have time yet to push yourself. Even though I recommend training through your recovery or recommend using strength movements to garner yourself back to health. If we’re in pain, we need to slow down. When we are applying pressure to our muscles we want to make sure we stay in between a pain scale of 6-8, never wandering above that mark. Discomfort is a result of returning our body and its structures to health, but it should never be the purpose. More pressure and more pain do not yield better results. We want to be comfortably uncomfortable. We are not applying pressure to our muscles to achieve a pain scale of 8, working in the 4-6, or 2-4 range is completely acceptable. The reason for this is because when we reach a significant pain threshold, our body fires our sympathetic nervous system, which tells our body to fight against what we are doing. The alarm bells tell our brain to lock up the muscle and since the strength of our muscles is easily greater than any amount of pressure we can apply, by continuing to do so we are wasting our time and energy. You could be using a hammer and chisel and you still will not be able to make a change to the muscle.
One of the key aspects that makes my approach unique is making sure we always move when applying pressure to our muscles. The human body heals through movement, not through stabilization, or immobilization. Even something like going for a relaxing walk can calm the central nervous system, ground ourselves to the magnetism of the Earth, and promote healing. Lying in bed or on the couch for days should be archaic and a thing of the past, but there are still some people that believe rest is the answer.