Monday, July 29, 2013

Is a 'muscle spasm' just a muscle spasm?

We are all quite familiar with muscle cramps following exertion or perhaps associated with conditions of the blood vessels but what about those acute and often painful spasms of the back muscles?  What is happening here and why do they seem to affect the spinal muscles so much?  Why for example do we not feel the same thing in the arm or leg?

More importantly is 'muscle spasm' a valid diagnosis or is it a sign of something else?

Most of our brain and nervous system is built for one purpose - PROTECTION - and the structures of the spine are some of the most sensitive to errors and injury, so much so that even trivial injury can invoke significant pain and muscular guarding.  Muscle spasm is in effect a protective behaviour.  Something is triggering it.

Muscle spasm due to simple joint strain is common and self limiting however a history of repeated episodes is more complex.  Why do they keep recurring?  Why are they becoming resistant to conventional treatment?  What is going on?

 Meniscoid extrapment, Chronic facet synovitis, disc herniation, degenerative spondylolisthesis, cervical dystonia and other syndromes can all cause a tightening of the spinal muscles.

In short muscle spasm is a non specific symptom.  If it keeps coming back it requires a diagnosis.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Move it or lose it. Why stress is good.

Explanations of joint pathology, the reasons why it may have developed and what can be done about it can become complex and difficult to understand.  In particular information relating to the structure and function of biological systems is continually mounting.  Much of the time we tell patients that in the end it boils down to a lack of complex movement.  In days past 'overdoing it' led to injury and trouble but is that what happens most of the time?

The phrase 'move it or lose it' is old and I suspect it's been around in some form for thousands of years.  We observe what happens when we don't move.  We become weak and flaccid, our balance deteriorates and there is evidence that even our automatic functions (such as blood pressure) which are neurologically controlled become disordered and dysfunctional. 

Neuroscience is now mapping out the mechanisms whereby we break down due to a LACK of stress.