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One of the hormones produced in the body during periods of stress is called adrenaline. This causes skeletal muscles to increase their level of tone – the number of fibres in a state of contraction at any one time. If this persists, muscles can become fatigued and depending on where they are in the body they can become shortened or over stretched.

The muscles which are usually most affected are those in the upper back, neck, shoulders, buttocks and thighs, this can develop into stiffness and discomfort and may eventually limit a persons movement. Back pain, shoulder pain and headaches can all be a result of stiff tense muscles that restrict the circulation and pinch certain nerves. Prolonged time in this state can cause tension and poor circulation, it becomes more difficult for waste products to be carried away and nutrients to be supplied efficiently, while the individual fibres and surrounding connective tissue tend to become less supple and lose their elasticity. These fibres form ‘knots’ or ‘nodules’ that can be felt if the muscle is massaged.

There is a greater risk of exercise-induced injury to these tight muscles in the form of strains and tears to individual fibres causing further pain and discomfort. In addition the brain continues to receive messages of tension from the muscles which perpetuates the vicious cycle of stress throughout the body.

Not all such pain in the muscles is due to muscular problems, for example, arthritis which affects the joints can cause the surrounding muscle to become stiff and uncomfortable, due to lack of use and tension caused by arthritic pain, also inflammation of tendons can result in a muscular pain.

Severe muscle problems such as muscular dystrophy and multiple sclerosis are disorders of the nerves controlling the muscles, sometimes a measure of relief can be found by easing the muscular pain through massage or other forms of alternative therapy.

By: Lesley-Ann Sales - Utah, United States
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