Friday, December 31, 2021

Self-Healing: Muscle Pain

This is part of a series of postings on self-healing, which you can access via the "Self-Healing" tag which appears in the Slog’s left margin below "Popular Entries". For general tips and background on self-healing, read this.

The traditional approach to relieving sore, tight, spasming muscles is, logically enough, tenderizing the muscle. That's what we pay masseuses and physical therapists for, that's what vibrating massage machines do, and that's what ice and heat kind of/sort of do as a temporary stopgap.

I found a better way.
I've been going to an extremely talented licensed sports massage therapist (with PT training) for many years. I told him about this technique, and he pronounced it worthy. So at least one expert has corroborated it (even though it's dramatically reduced his income from me).
Find a tendon in the general afflicted area. There's always a tendon nearby.
If you're not familiar with tendons, practice by feeling around for rubberband-ish structures just above your elbow (with that arm comfortably at rest). There are lots of them there.
Gently probe and dig around with your fingertips until you find one (treat your flesh like impartial meat, the way a masseuse might). Then pluck the tendon firmly (nothing crazy), like a bass string, five times or so. Then find another tendon and repeat. If you're unsure whether a given structure is a tendon or a thin bone or something, don't worry. Pluck it anyway. Be eager for bumps to pluck.

Keep going. Work your way around the afflicted area. You'll find that one tendon hurts particularly. That's the one connecting the afflicted muscle. Pluck that one a few extra times. It will hurt some, but nowhere near as much as it hurts when a masseuse digs his claw into a sore muscle. So not only is this faster and more effective, it's less painful.

I assume this works due to leverage. It's easier and more efficient to remobilize a structure from the "stem" so to speak.

You don't need to find the perfect tendon and pluck it with perfect force the perfect number of times. You just need a little patience. Tendons don't present themselves particularly obviously. It's like probing, blindfolded, for raisins in a pilaf (that was bizarre, sorry, but I can't think of a better analogy).

Adults are terrible at this sort of open-ended instruction. They want to download an anatomical map of tendons and be told which to pluck in which order. They want a YouTube video showing what, exactly, "pluck" means. They have loads of questions and confusions and anxieties and are really pretty skeptical of the whole enterprise when they have more serious tasks to take care of, like the 400,000th mental replay of that time when their father said that terrible thing. What they really want is some confident-seeming person to charge them $250 and come do it for them, because they're not the sort of person who knows anything about fricking tendons.

Kids know how to do stuff like this. They know how to explore playfully, without their thought stream hijacking a simple process and turning it into a miasma. They're distractible, sure, but they'll keep coming back to that exploration, again and again. That's how they learn to juggle and wiggle their ears and ride a bike and internalize the basic knowledge of human civilization. Adults have trouble learning, while kids are splendid at it. So approach this like a playful child.

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