Muscle Activation & Muscle Recruitment Are Not The Same

Muscle Activation & Muscle Recruitment Are Not The Same

September 9, 2016|By Eric Owens|No Comments »

 

The terms muscle activation and muscle recruitment are often used interchangeably and while they do have some overlap, they also have distinct differences. We believe that people should care to maximize both.

When looking at a muscle contraction, there is a difference between the number of muscle fibers being recruited versus how active those recruited muscle fibers actually are. In our opinion, muscle recruitment is determined by the number of fibers that are actually being engaged within a muscle contraction. For illustration purposes, consider the following example – if a muscle contains 1000 muscle fibers and 500 of them are being engaged, then there is 50 percent muscle recruitment, but this does not indicate anything about the degree of activation. The force generated by the individual recruited muscle fibers is how we would define activation, or their ability to contract and generate a given force. Ideally there would always be 100 percent muscle recruitment and 100 percent muscle activation, but in most cases this simply doesn’t happen.

Through repetitive use of muscle tissue during fitness activities or just daily use, muscle fibers gradually become tighter, hardened, immobile and eventually fall into a chronically fibrotic state. As this progression takes place, the fibers can no longer be contracted, which results in a decrease in overall muscle recruitment. In terms of activation, as this muscular tightness sets in, the amount of force generated by the individual muscle fibers decreases. Consequently, activation is diminished. Keeping this in mind, what is one of the most common complaints we get from patients in addition to stiffness and pain? Weakness. In reality, they don’t actually have a true weakness, but a tightness that is causing the weakness. There is a lack of available muscle tissue or a lack of recruitment and diminished activation. If a patient is only recruiting 50 percent of a muscle, there will be weakness present. So exercising at this point to increase strength isn’t an effective approach because the only fibers that are being strengthened are the ones being recruited for use, i.e. the healthy fibers.  None of the tight fibers are capable of being recruited or engaged.

So before exercise or training should commence to strengthen a muscle, we believe that it is critical for the tight, contracted fibers to be separated. Based on our experience, we believe this separation and loosening process can only happen with precise, direct pressure into the muscle fibers that forces a stretch at the location of the pressure. This method is very different than conventional stretching, deep tissue massage or foam rolling, which are relatively superficial techniques that do not access deep tightness. Breaking up the fibrotic tissue and restructuring the muscle back to its original anatomical state allows proper recruitment and activation of the individual muscle fibers. This enhances function as there are more fibers being recruited and the force generated in each fiber is elevated, leading to an overall increase in performance.

Delos Spotlight: Darren DeMatoff

Delos Spotlight: Darren DeMatoff

September 2, 2016|By admin|No Comments »

Delos Therapy has some amazing clients with extraordinary stories and we want to take the time to share their success with our therapy. Meet Darren, an avid marathon runner and long time Delos client who attributes his running career to Delos. Read his interview to find out his amazing transformation since starting Delos.

How did you hear about Delos?

DD: I heard about Delos through word of mouth. My running coach suggested that I try getting a massage when I injured myself before a marathon. Which is when a friend of mine, who I run with and is also a client of Delos, suggested that I try their therapy instead.

What issues brought you to Delos?

DD: To put it simply, I was in pain. About a week before the 2013 marathon I woke up and attempted to go for a run only to discover that I had pulled a groin muscle. Being in severe pain and not able to run, I knew I needed to try something if I was going to make the marathon. That’s when a friend of mine suggested that I try Delos. After the first visit, I knew this therapy would be something I needed if I wanted to continue running.

What types of treatments did you try before coming to Delos?

DD: Before coming to Delos, my attempts to remedy pain were the usual – stretching, foam rolling, massage and seeing a chiropractor. Even being diligent about stretching and rolling didn’t ever seem to be enough. So when presented with the option to try something new, I took it.

What improvements have you made since starting Delos Therapy?

DD: Having been a long time patient, I’ve made many improvements over the years. I was able to run the marathon in 2013 and several since then. Delos helped me set several personal records, including a 9 minute P.R. during the Tokyo marathon. I re-injured myself in 2015 and was barely able to stand up straight or walk. Delos was what got me moving again. So whether I’m healthy looking to improve or injured and in need of fixing, Delos continues to keep me running pain free.

What would you say to someone who hasn’t tried Delos Therapy?

DD: I recommend Delos to everyone. Anytime someone mentions having tightness or pain, my immediate answer is Delos. They can get places that traditional modalities can’t. My Delos treatments directly relate to my success as a runner. Therapy is as much a part of my training as my runs are. Everyone who tries Delos loves it and has a great experience. Beyond the actual treatment, which speaks for itself, the Delos therapists are equally amazing. The personal investment from each therapist is special. I’ve worked with several over the years and each one has a personal commitment to their patient’s health. They all are excited about the progress of myself and other patients. Delos is a unique therapy worthy of lifelong commitment.

Tell us something unique about you.

DD: For 4 years, I’ve been raising money for TPAN – an AIDS support group. I helped raise enough money so that they could implement a mobile testing facility to reach underserved communities around the city. I also am a coordinator for CARA and own my own business. I am committed to making a difference in my community and spreading the joy of running.

Delos Spotlight: Kevin Sager

Delos Spotlight: Kevin Sager

July 29, 2016|By admin|No Comments »

Delos Therapy has some amazing clients with extraordinary stories and we want to take the time to share their success with our therapy. Meet Kevin Sager, a high school track and field runner who was almost sidelined with an injury and has now achieved both personal and school records. Read his interview to find out his amazing transformation since starting Delos.

How did you hear about Delos?

KS: A good family friend of ours had been going to Delos Therapy and was happy with his results.

What issues brought you to Delos?

KS: I have run track and field as a sprinter all throughout high school. My junior year, I had two bad hamstring injuries, one in each leg. By the beginning of my senior year track season, my hamstrings didn’t seem to be fully recovered even though I put lots of time and effort into getting back to 100%. I was desperately looking around for a way to fix my tight muscles.

What types of treatments did you try before coming to Delos?

KS: Like most athletes, I first tried traditional physical therapy. While I found it to be beneficial, it got to a point where I was no longer improving. I got to a level where I could comfortably sprint about half the time, but my hamstrings would still frequently tighten up and make me nervous that I would hurt myself again. Eventually I began looking for a different type of treatment.

What improvements have you made since starting Delos Therapy?

KS: I began noticing improvement after just a couple sessions. After a few weeks, my hamstring muscles were softer to the touch and I could sprint at full speed without feeling any tightness in my legs. Coming to Delos about 3 times a week during track season kept me feeling loose and fast all the way to the State finals. I concluded my senior year at Neuqua Valley High School as a State Champion in the 4 x 200m relay and State runner-up in the 4 x 400m relay, breaking the school record in both events.

What would you say to someone who hasn’t tried Delos Therapy?

KS: When I first heard of [Delos Therapy], I was a little skeptical because I had already worked with highly regarded athletic therapists and was not getting the desired results. “Why would Delos work when other experts’ methods have not?” After the first session, it was clear to me that Delos is a completely different approach from what I was used to. I definitely recommend it to anybody who has issues that just seem impossible to fix. There’s a good chance Delos will fix it.

Tell us something unique about you.

KS: I played football for 11 years straight, mostly as a running back, and never suffered more than very minor injuries. Track and Field has given me way more injuries, some of which were very hard to deal with. Most people would think that running is safe and that playing football is one of the most dangerous sports. I think that my determination to succeed in sports caused me to over-train for track, which put a lot of stress on my body. While I need to learn the limits, the determination that I gained from sports is a valuable skill that I will carry over into other areas of my life in the future.

Delos Spotlight: Mary Kate Guidici

Delos Spotlight: Mary Kate Guidici

June 24, 2016|By admin|No Comments »

Delos Therapy has some amazing clients with extraordinary stories and we want to take the time to share their success with our therapy. Meet Mary Kate, once a level ten gymnast, who came to Delos with debilitating body spasms and pain. Read her interview to find out her amazing transformation since starting Delos.

How did you hear about Delos?

MK: I was searching for any therapy in the Chicagoland area that specialized in chronic pain and Delos Therapy popped up on my computer. I emailed them for more information and was excited to learn about a treatment option I had not tried before.

What issues brought you to Delos?

MK: I was a level ten gymnast training 30 hours a week. One injury changed my life. After my fifth ankle surgery five years ago I was diagnosed with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome type 2 (nerve damage) in my left ankle. After a year of being diagnosed it spread throughout my entire left side.

I also have severe full body muscle spasms that put me into a wheelchair and multiple splints to keep my muscles from contracting. The slightest vibration, wind blow, switch of a light, or high pitched sound would cause excruciating pain and spams, sometimes causing me to lose consciousness.

I was a level 8-10 with pain and my skin was burning with ulcers (felt like someone poured burning acid on my legs). Everything hurt, even the slightest touch. I had chronic swelling in my arm and ankle that limited my range of motion.

What types of treatments did you try before coming to Delos?

MK: Before coming to Delos, I had tried basically everything imaginable for pain: local anesthetic injections, lumbar sympathetic nerve blocks, stellate ganglion nerve blocks, a lot of different narcotics and muscle relaxants (I tried 26 different types), inpatient rehabilitation programs, outpatient physical therapy, occupational therapy, aqua therapy and Calmar therapy.

I gained function with IV magnesium two times a week (up to 6g/week) and acupuncture, but my pain stayed the same and I would still have major setbacks with the muscle spasms and swelling.

What improvements have you made since starting Delos Therapy?

MK: WOW!!!! I can’t really put it into words. After one week of Delos Therapy, Eric found the exact point where my spasms start and the exact spot that immediately stops the spasms – I guess you could say I have and activation and deactivation button on my body! As you can imagine, this gave me my life back! I now attend class, drive, go out in public and not be afraid of ending up in an ambulance and in the ER. I am cutting down the amount of IV magnesium I get dramatically and I am eliminating half the supplements and treatments I receive weekly! Nobody has been able to even touch my ankle in two years without me going into full spasm. Now, with the point, I can get my ankle worked on. My range of motion is incredible and I can finally walk down the stairs the right, easy, pain free way! My swelling is completely gone and the skin ulcers have healed since my pain level is going down! This treatment has truly been my miracle and I now know that remission is in my near future! Taking the wheelchair out of my car has been a true blessing! I can now live a “normal” life!

What would you say to someone who hasn’t tried Delos Therapy?

MK: If you want a treatment that gets to the root cause of your pain and doesn’t put a band aid over the symptoms Delos Therapy is where you should be! It gave me my life back and if you truly want to be pain free this is your answer!

Tell us something unique about you.

MK: My laugh is very unique…it is an inside out laugh and sounds like a seal.

 

4 Common Myths About Muscle Health

4 Common Myths About Muscle Health

March 28, 2016|By Eric Owens|No Comments »

 

When people think of muscle health, they typically refer to strength, conditioning, flexibility and endurance – things accomplished in a gym or yoga studio. As a former professional athlete and current pain specialist, there is a missing component to determine if a muscle is healthy or has proper function

 

Myth #1:         A muscle should be hard.

Muscles should always be soft, uniform and consistent. The only time a muscle should be hard is when it is in a contracted state (i.e. when it is actively flexed). If you feel the muscle fibers of a highly developed body builder, you’ll notice that the muscle will actually feel soft. When the bodybuilder flexes, the muscle will actually feel very hard and dense. This is a normal, healthy state of a muscle.

When a muscle is hard in a relaxed state, that means the muscle fibers have gone into a chronically contracted state and are incapable of relaxing. A muscle in this state will hurt and feel stiff because of the strain it puts on joints and the lack of pliability within the tight muscle fibers.

 

Myth #2:         Stretching will decrease muscle tightness.

When tight muscles feel stiff, people have the urge to stretch, not realizing that conventional or dynamic stretching only stretches apart the healthy fibers – the fibers that are capable of elongating – but not those fibers that are hard and in a constantly tight state.

In my experience, the only way to loosen up these particular, tight fibers is using direct systematic pressure, which forces those fibers apart at the location of the pressure. As an example, think of a knot tied in the middle of a rubber band and the ends of the rubber band being pulled apart. Every part of the rubber band is stretching, except for the knot. This would be the equivalent of conventional stretching which pulls at the ends of the muscle. What I’m referring to is direct, perpendicular pressure into the knot itself and breaking it apart. Furthermore, muscle fibers are three-dimensional, which means pressure needs to be applied at multiple angles and deep into the tissue, forcing the separation of every fiber.

 

Myth #3:         Foam rolling or deep-tissue massage loosens up muscle tissue.

When I talk about applying direct pressure into a muscle, most people think of foam rolling or massage. While these techniques feel good, they actually do very little to loosen up tight tissue. My clinical observation among patients that have utilized foam rolling or massage to get rid of their tightness is that the muscle still feels hard and maintains symptoms of pain and stiffness.

The reason these techniques are ineffective is because they merely move across the superficial surface of the muscle. They don’t penetrate deep into the tightness and don’t hold the fibers in a stretched position long enough to have lasting, effective impact.

 

Myth #4:         No pain or stiffness equals no problem.

Repetitive motion and sustained contractions cause muscles to get tight over time. People spend years exercising and using their muscles while sitting at a desk, and then one day, it seems as if an injury or pain just happens. There is a certain threshold of tightness needed to have any symptoms of pain and stiffness. Being below this threshold gives the perception that there is no problem accumulating.

As the fibers continue to tighten due to use, an injury or pain appears to spontaneously occur, when in reality, there are years or even decades of tightness that has been developing within the muscle.

 

Final Thoughts

The purpose of this article is draw attention to very commonly made assumptions about muscle health that don’t address the full picture of what is happening in the body. I urge you to notice as you engage in your daily activities what I’ve outlined here.  Your muscles should be soft if they are healthy. When you notice some parts of the muscle that feel hard to the touch while in a relaxed state, try stretching these muscles and see if they loosen up.

What you’ll find is that conventional stretching is useful for existing healthy fibers, but it will do nothing for tight, hard fibers. The best way to address these particular fibers, which cause pain and stiffness, is with direct, organized pressure.  When the tissue loosens up by the use of pressure, you will notice that the muscles feel softer, more flexible, and you will have more strength, and better growth and function of the muscle. Focus on your muscle health now to avoid future issues and consider that exercise and stretching are only part of the solution.

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