!It is uncanny how often I hear someone tell me that they have tight muscles that need to be released in order for their pain to go away.I don’t blame the patient at all.
They are most often just recalling what they have been told by a previous provider or have read online, which is where this belief pattern starts.It is then often strengthened through gaining relief from soft tissue therapies.
Naturally, the thought process goes…
I feel like I have tight, stiff muscles.
I’m told I have tight muscles causing pain.
This confirms what I feel.
Therapy given to release said stiff muscles.
Relief must be because of physical changes.
Belief confirmed and strengthened.
Then, as so often happens, the perception of stiffness comes back, and it is assumed that the muscle has gone back to it’s previous state and another treatment is needed.
Over time, this can lead to frustration and/or reductions in self efficacy.You can apply this narrative to at home stretching / rolling or professional therapies. In that, you end up riding the symptom modification roller coaster without ever acknowledging other potential contributors to your pain.
That’s where research like this paper is so important.They showed that muscle stiffness is the same in women with and without chronic neck pain but those with pain perceive higher levels of stiffness. The muscles PHYSICALLY were the same. So it makes us question what all these therapies are doing and how necessary they really are
.Based on this and previous literature, it would seem that they should primarily be viewed as options to alter sensation temporarily, but not for long term structural change.
And that’s ok!
Just know what things are doing and what they’re not.