Why does it hurt?
For the discussion below, the source for pain excludes disease processes and illnesses. Instead, we look at pain caused by dysfunction in the affected muscles and soft tissue which can be eased or erased with manual therapy that includes muscle energy techniques (MET) and myofascial release.
Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Dysfunction is caused by excessive sustained contractions of the muscles that open and close the mouth. TMJ can be initiated by poor posture, stress, whiplash or other physical trauma, grinding of the teeth or maloccluded teeth. Pain in the jaw often radiates to the head, face, neck and shoulders. Myofascial release and massage with MET can reduce pain and muscle spasm.
The most common types of headaches are migraines, tension headaches and cluster headaches. Of these, tension headaches are the most common. With tension headaches, physical, emotional and psychological stresses can cause the muscles in the head, jaw and neck to contract painfully, pinching nerves and bringing on headaches. Again, massage with MET relieves pain, increases circulation in affected muscles and relaxes the whole body.
Many factors contribute to neck and shoulder pain. These include poor posture, injury or trauma, psychological or emotional stress, inactivity, degeneration of the cervical vertebrae, and aging. The neck or shoulder or both may feel tight and stiff or achy or experience sharp pain. The pain can range in severity from nagging nuisance to severe and can either stay localized or radiate to other areas of the body.
So many people experience back pain, especially low back pain whose cause is controversial. We do know, however, that most low back pain results from lack of proper functioning of the spine and soft tissues rather than from disease. Many factors contribute to back pain. These include sedentary lifestyle habits such as extensive periods of sitting or driving and lack of exercise. Other factors include poor posture, obesity, fatigue, emotional stresses, joint dysfunction and muscle imbalances. Low back pain can refer pain into the legs.
And then there are stresses. Depression, anxiety, resentment, fear. These emotional stresses create areas of prolonged muscle contraction with decreased blood flow which leads to muscle fatigue and changes in muscle movement and pain.
The importance of good posture cannot be exaggerated. Poor posture creates a forward head position that pulls strongly on the muscles at the base of the neck. Over time the shoulders become rounded and both neck and shoulders become stiff and lose the full range of motion. Continued sustained contractions in the mid back can lock in the "dowager's hump," dysfunction and instability in the low back.
Sciatica often occurs when one or more contracted muscles of the gluteal region tighten over or around the sciatic nerve. Symptoms include diffuse pain in the buttock with pain, numbing or tingling along the back of the thigh.
A fibromyalgia diagnosis traditionally has been difficult to come by. In 2010 new criteria for a positive diagnosis include an analysis of widespread pain over 19 areas of the body and an assessment of the severity of that pain. Sufferers may experience chronic fatigue, difficulty concentrating and physical symptoms such as tingling or numbness, dizziness, headaches or IBS.