How Muscles Cause Joint Pain

Written by Dr. Steve Chaney on . Posted in Issues, Muscle Therapy and Health

Preventing & Healing Repetitive Strain Injuries – Part 1

 Author: Julie Donnelly, LMT

 

Quadriceps

Quadriceps

Using the words “pain” and “free” in the same sentence causes people who love to exercise laugh since it seems to be a contradiction of terms, but it is not only possible, it’s easy to achieve. It is understood that exercising, or even just daily living, causes muscles to ache and will also put stress on joints.

When the pain begins you are told to use “RICE” (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) – but you don’t have the time, or you simply don’t want to rest! So, you keep going and just as you’ve been told, it gets worse, even to the point where you may need to stop your world!

You’ve also come to realize that resting (when you do decide to rest) only lasts for a short time, and then the pain returns. The good news is you can be a pain-free; you just need to know how to find the source of your pain and then how to effectively treat it.

How Muscles Cause Joint Pain

RICE certainly works immediately after having a traumatic injury, but repetitive stress on your muscles requires treatment of the knots that are putting tension onto the tendons and joints.  Getting back to basic anatomy will help to unravel the misconceptions that plague both athletes and non-athletes alike.  Once you understand the logic of why you are feeling pain, you will know exactly what needs to be done to immediately release a muscle-related pain anywhere in your body.

This is NOT going to be a complicated lesson in Anatomy & Physiology, but I’ve found that a little knowledge of the body goes a long way. I’m going to put the proper names for the muscles and tendons into a parenthesis so if you want to actually see the muscles that are causing you pain you’ll be able to look them up.

I always tell the clients I work with “the most challenging part is finding where the source of the pain is located, and then treating it is easy”.  This article will help you to find the source of your problem.  Let’s begin at the beginning…

The Basics – How a Joint Moves

Movement is a simple process:

1. A muscle originates on a bone.

2. It then merges into a tendon.

3. The tendon crosses over the joint to insert into a movable bone.

4. When the muscle contracts it pulls on the tendon.  The tendon then pulls on the moveable bone and your joint moves.

Example: The Muscles of Your Upper Leg

Hamstrings

Hamstrings

All joints have two (or more) muscles that determine the degree and angle that the joint will move.  While one muscle is contracting, the other muscle must relax and stretch. A good example of this principle are the muscles of your upper leg. (quadriceps and hamstrings).

The quadriceps originate on the front of your hip (pelvis), merge into a thick tendon (patella tendon) and cross over the knee cap to insert onto the front of your shinbone (tibia).  When they contract normally you fully extend your leg so it becomes straight. Meanwhile, your hamstrings originate on the lower edge at the back of your pelvis; go down the back of your thigh, with the tendons crossing over the back of your knee and inserting onto the back side/top of the lower leg bone.

Consider this analogy, if you attached your pants to the front of your shinbone, and then pulled up at the waist, you would feel the pressure at your knee and you also wouldn’t be able to bend your knee. Likewise, since your quadriceps originate up at the front of your pelvis and insert into your shinbone, when your quadriceps are tight they can’t stretch and you can’t bend your knee.

For example, to demonstrate an analogy of what tight hamstrings would do, consider what would happen if you bent your leg and then attached your pants to the bottom of your posterior pelvis (the bone you sit on, at the top of your thigh) and the back of your knee, you wouldn’t be able to open your leg up straight.  But, clearly, you don’t have a knee problem, you have tightness in the upper thigh (hamstring) preventing your knee from moving.

When this has happened you begin to feel stiffness and a lack of your full strength. Some therapists will tell you that you need to strengthen your thigh (quadriceps) muscles. You may also think you need to stretch your hamstrings, but stretching a spasm is counter-productive and can actually make the spasm become more complicated while over-stretching the rest of the muscle fiber.

In Part II we’ll look at the first misconception – strengthening the muscle will heal the pain.

Julie Donnelly is an internationally respected muscular therapist specializing in the treatment of chronic pain and sports injuries.  She has co-authored several self-treatment books, including The 15 Minute Back Pain Solution, Treat Yourself to Pain-Free Living  and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome-What You Don’t Know CAN Hurt You.  Julie is also the co-developer of TriggerPoint Yoga. She teaches Julstro self-treatment workshops nationwide and is a frequent presenter at Conventions and Seminars.  Julie may be contacted through her websites: http://www.julstro.com  and http://www.TriggerPointYoga.com.

© Julie Donnelly 2013

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

 

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Latest Article

One of the Little known Causes of Headaches

Posted August 15, 2017 by Dr. Steve Chaney

Your Sleeping Position May Be Causing Your Headaches!

Author: Julie Donnelly, LMT – The Pain Relief Expert

Editor: Dr. Steve Chaney

 

Can sleeping position be one of the causes of headaches?  

A Sleeping position that has your head tilted puts pressure on your spinal cord and will cause headaches. I’ve seen it happen hundreds of times, and the reasoning is so logical it’s easy to understand.

causes of headachesYour spinal cord runs from your brain, through each of your vertebrae, down your arms and legs. Nerves pass out of the vertebrae and go to every cell in your body, including each of your organs. When you are sleeping it is important to keep your head, neck, and spine in a horizontal plane so you aren’t straining the muscles that insert into your vertebrae.

The graphic above is a close-up of your skull and the cervical (neck) vertebrae. Your nerves are shown in yellow, and your artery is shown in red.  Consider what happens if you hold your head to one side for hours. You can notice that the nerves and artery will likely be press upon. Also, since your spinal cord comes down the inside of the vertebrae, it will also be impinged.

In 2004 the Archives of Internal Medicine published an article stating that 1 out of 13 people have morning headaches. It’s interesting to note that the article never mentions the spinal cord being impinged by the vertebrae. That’s a major oversight!

Muscles merge into tendons, and the tendons insert into the bone.  As you stayed in the tilted position for hours, the muscles actually shortened to the new length.  Then you try to turn over, but the short muscles are holding your cervical vertebrae tightly, and they can’t lengthen.

The weight of your head pulls on the vertebrae, putting even more pressure on your spinal cord and nerves.  Plus, the tight muscles are pulling on the bones, causing pain on the bone.

Your Pillow is Involved in Your Sleeping Position and the Causes of  Headaches

sleep left side

The analogy I always use is; just as pulling your hair hurts your scalp, the muscle pulling on the tendons hurts the bone where it inserts.  In this case it is your neck muscles putting a strain on your cervical bones.  For example, if you sleep on your left side and your pillow is too thick, your head will be tilted up toward the ceiling. This position tightens the muscles on the right side of your neck.

sleeping in car and desk

Dozing off while sitting in a car waiting for someone to arrive, or while working for hours at your desk can also horizontal line sleepcause headaches. The pictures above show a strain on the neck when you fall asleep without any support on your neck. Both of these people will wake up with a headache, and with stiffness in their neck.

The best sleeping position to prevent headaches is to have your pillow adjusted so your head, neck, and spine are in a horizontal line. Play with your pillows, putting two thin pillows into one case if necessary. If your pillow is too thick try to open up a corner and pull out some of the stuffing.

 

sleeping on stomachSleeping on Your Back & Stomach

If you sleep on your back and have your head on the mattress, your spine is straight. All you need is a little neck pillow for support, and a pillow under your knees.

Stomach sleeping is the worst sleeping position for not only headaches, but so many other aches and pains. It’s a tough habit to break, but it can be done. This sleeping position deserves its own blog, which I will do in the future.

 

Treating the Muscles That Cause Headaches

sleeping position causes of headachesAll of the muscles that originate or insert into your cervical vertebrae, and many that insert into your shoulder and upper back, need to be treated.  The treatments are all taught in Treat Yourself to Pain Free Living, in the neck and shoulder chapters.  Here is one treatment that will help you get relief.

Take either a tennis ball or the Perfect Ball (which really is Perfect because it has a solid center and soft outside) and press into your shoulder as shown.  You are treating a muscle called Levator Scapulae which pulls your cervical vertebrae out of alignment when it is tight.

Hold the press for about 30 seconds, release, and then press again.

Your pillow is a key to neck pain and headaches caused by your sleeping position.  It’s worth the time and energy to investigate how you sleep and correct your pillow.  I believe this blog will help you find the solution and will insure you have restful sleep each night.

Wishing you well,

Julie Donnelly

 

About The Author

julie donnelly

Julie Donnelly is a Deep Muscle Massage Therapist with 20 years of experience specializing in the treatment of chronic joint pain and sports injuries. She has worked extensively with elite athletes and patients who have been unsuccessful at finding relief through the more conventional therapies.

She has been widely published, both on – and off – line, in magazines, newsletters, and newspapers around the country. She is also often chosen to speak at national conventions, medical schools, and health facilities nationwide.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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