Many of us have experienced that feeling of muscles tightening around our neck or back when an injury occurs, but what actually happens?
When the brain senses tissue damage in-and-around the spine, a message is sent up the spinal cord to the brain from the site of injury. The brain then decides whether the information received poses a threat where action is required or not. If a threat is perceived then a message is sent back down the spinal cord to tighten the muscles around the injured site. This protective muscle spasm prevents further damage to the injured area, acting like a splint to reduce painful movements.
Although this response is useful in the early stages of injury, prolongued muscle spasm can go on to have a negative impact, restricting movement and loading neighbouring tissue areas making them susceptible to injury. Early mobilisation is often recommended to ease muscle spasm and promote function. This in turn allows the injury to settle, paving the way for stabilisation exercises.
Soft tissue massage, stretching and joint mobilisation techniques are useful tools in promoting function, easing pain and reducing muscle spasm. It is crucial an initial diagnosis is made to identify what has been injured, its predisposing and maintaining factors, and an action plan formulated to ensure a quick and full recovery is made.