Hey What’s That ‘Hitch In My Giddy Up’

Los Alamos

This week, let’s talk about strain/counter strain syndrome, its often painful, insidious side effects and what you can do about it.

Normally the human body maintains a homeostatic balance in its numerous complex muscle systems. Muscles are designed to do a job and return to their normal relaxed position. There is a complicated system that allows muscles to do their jobs. All muscles have an antagonist that dampens the desired movement. 

A good example of this is in the forearm. The muscles on the bottom of the arm are flexors and the top extensors. Make a firm fist (flexion) and watch the extensor muscles tighten up as well. This beautiful system is what allows us humans to move gracefully through life.

Now what is strain/counter strain syndrome? Activities such as computer work for long hours require us to keep our muscles in the same position hour after hour. This creates strain on the muscles that perform the act and counter strain on the antagonist muscles that dampen the act.

The same is true for hip flexion. We spend many hours sitting down, which tighten the hip flexors called the psoas and Iliacus muscles. The antagonist muscles, which are back extensors and the Quadratus Lumborum. This causes low back pain and even sciatica pain that can run down the back of the legs. It is the job of a highly trained Medical massage therapist to recognize these strain patterns in the body and fix them as well as educate the client to prevent further damage and pain.

Strain counter strain syndrome can also occur in athletes who tend to have a dominate side of the body that becomes tighter and pulls unevenly on the body creating hip and back pain. Often in my practice I encounter athletes who have one leg shorter than the other often the result of strain counter strain syndrome. 

This phenomenon occurs when muscles on the stronger side of the body cause an anterior rotation of the pelvis. Now that the pelvis is unleveled the opposite side of the body will tighten up to try and counteract the pelvic rotation. Once the rotation occurs it is virtually impossible for the athlete to fix this without help from a qualified therapist to de rotate the pelvis and use deep tissue techniques to loosen up the tight side of the body. 

Medical massage in the end is a very effective way to eliminate painful patterns from the body and help the client to understand what is causing the pain and how to prevent it from occurring gain.

Editor’s note: Kreig Peterson is the owner of In Touch Medical and Therapeutic Massage in The Mary Deal Building in Los Alamos. He graduated with honors at (UTMI) Universal Therapeutic Massage Institute in Albuquerque in July of 2011. He also graduated UTMI’S medical massage program in February 2012. Peterson is nationally certified by NCBTMB and is working on his board certification with this organization. Peterson is available for consultation at 505.410.6161. For more information, visit www.losalamosmassage.com.


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