The Science of Muscle Medicine

05/04/2017

I’ve often thought that the human body is like a machine, albeit the most intelligent and technologically advanced machine ever created. Think of all common everyday machines, such as cars, printers, and computers. Our human body works in very much the same way, requiring all the components to work together in harmony. But, unlike these machines, the body can grow, change, and adapt itself to its environment. How clever a machine is that?

This human machine allows for the execution of simple day to day life activities as well as complex elite performance in music, art, and sports. Humans are arguably the most complex organisms to walk this earth and just like cars, printers, and computers, we need a lot of care and maintenance so we can live our lives in a healthy and active state.

The Muscular System

The muscular system of the human body is responsible for our movement. It maintains our posture as well as helps to circulate blood throughout our bodies. We have well over 700 different muscles that make up half of our body’s weight. There are three different muscle types: smooth, skeletal, and cardiac. All three play crucial roles in the health of our bodies and it is vital to keep our muscles in peak condition.

In modern life, we tend to under stimulate our bodies. Commonly, our corporate clients at Excel will drive 45 minutes plus to work, sit at a desk for 8 hours, then spring into explosive exercise activity before driving home again, perhaps to sit on the couch watching TV. This calibre of lifestyle does not allow for the human machine to function at its optimum potential and adaptability. The human machine is craving more movement, motor control, and change. What we end up with is poor posture, decreased mood, altered appetite, and a combination of weak, inflexible, and shortened muscles.

The Trio Strategy

Brenda Vien, Practice Manager at Excel Physiotherapy, weighs in on the trio strategy: the three things our muscles need to be functioning at the very highest level. This strategy can be applied to everyone, ranging from sedentary people to elite athletes. With this strategy, you will be able to improve your posture, energy levels, general health and mental state, sleep, and will result in higher quality of life. Who wouldn’t want that? Read on.

MOVEMENT

Have you ever heard of the statement, “movement is medicine”? Hipprocrates, the ancient Greek physician, reputed as the Father of Modern Medicine, and founder of the Hippocratic Oath states, “motion is life”.

Exercise is crucial to prevent and manage chronic health conditions. There’s so much to discuss here! We could focus on the long-term physiological benefits of exercise, such as lowered blood pressure, reduction of certain cancers, and heart disease or reduction of Alzheimer’s. We could also focus on the immediate benefits you will reap which are relaxation, happiness, vitality, and energy.

Realistically, how much movement are you getting throughout your day? An initiative by the Cerebral Palsy Alliance, named aptly so as Steptember, reported that office workers take an average of 3,000 steps a day. The recommended prescription is 10,000. You need to structure your working day so you can fit in as much incidental exercise as possible.

Just as an ability to play an instrument or solve difficult mathematical equations will decrease without practice, the muscles in our bodies require challenge and activity to maintain their size, strength, and function. We understand that with the ever-increasing demands of modern life and our responsibilities to work and our families, an hour-long session at the gym may be too much to ask every day, but it is recommended to get as much walking into your day as possible. This is achievable on your way to work, lunch time, or after work.

So throw your excuses out the door!!! The trick is to fit as much in as possible throughout the day, swap sitting for standing and take walks around the block on your lunch break. Raining? Try a short stretching sequence.

MAGNESIUM

Our muscles require the right fuel to function at a high level. Magnesium is the miracle supplement needed by every person, from lightly active workers to high-level Olympic class athletes.

Whilst magnesium can be ingested through various food sources, such as broccoli, spinach, nuts, beans, and banana, our qualified staff recommend Magnesium Excel from Oriental Botanicals which contains magnesium glycenate – a superior form of magnesium which is four times more bio-available (readily taken up by muscles), allowing the magnesium to be absorbed by your muscles, rather than getting stuck in the gut.

For general well-being, it has been proven in a study that dietary magnesium aids in the preservation of age-related loss of skeletal muscle mass and power in women of all age groups (Welch et al, 2016). For our elite athletes, not only does magnesium help alleviate muscle cramps but a study proved that magnesium is involved in energy production and plays an important role in improved exercise performance. (Chen et al, 2014). So, magnesium can help you compete longer and harder out on the field, track, or in the pool, or while you’re in the last set of push ups!

In conclusion, studies have demonstrated that magnesium actually enhances glucose availability in the peripheral and central systems, and increases lactic acid clearance in muscles during exercise. High levels of lactic acid are the by-product of the chemical reactions within our muscles during strenuous activity. The fact that magnesium allows this by-product to clear out of your muscles quicker means you can feel more energetic during exercise.

MASSAGE

 

Ever woken up with sore or stiff muscles? Or had a big sporting competition on the weekend and now you’re feeling tight and locked up?

There are many options with massage therapy, which can aid you in allowing your body to perform at the highest possible level. You can also choose to self manage by utilizing tools such as massage balls or foam rollers. You could also book in with a qualified massage therapist who can administer remedial massage therapy, sports massages, relaxation massage, pregnancy massage… the list is endless.

If you would like to self manage your massage, you may want to look into self-myofascial release (SMR) which is an effective intervention used to improve our body’s myofascial mobility. Common tools include the foam roller and spikey massage ball.
A study demonstrated that SMR with a foam roller or roller massager appears to have short-term effects on increasing joint range of motion (ROM) without negatively affecting muscle performance and may help dissipate reductions in muscle performance and delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) after intense outputs of exercise (Cheatham et al, 2015).

In a study of marathon runners, massage was proven to be a highly effective treatment in reducing DOMS during the dawning of symptoms (Visconti et al, 2015). Furthermore, massage tools can also increase flexibility, according to a study that confirms the foam roller to be an effective tool in increasing hamstring flexibility within 4 weeks (Junker and Stoggl, 2015).

Another study shows that concentrated massage on the gastrocnemius (calf muscle) after DOMS has positive influence on pain and gait performance (improved locomotion). Therefore, it can be concluded that massage can be an advantageous intervention for delayed onset muscle soreness (Han et al, 2014)

In addition to regularly managing the health of your muscular system through movement, magnesium, and massage, I also recommend an initial assessment from a qualified physiotherapist or exercise physiologist to address any concerns such as injury, operation, disability, or illness. It is of utmost importance to consult a university trained health professional, such as a doctor, physiotherapist, or exercise physiologist before the commencement of any fitness program or massage regimen.

And just in case you were wondering, here’s what I do for exercise:

I am training in the art of Krav Maga (Israelian martial arts) two nights a week where I learn tactical self-defence skills. In addition to that, I engage in one-on-one clinical Pilates once a week with Excel Managing Director Tim Ellis where I use the reformer Pilates machine – this helps me target various muscle groups and build overall strength. I also walk as much as I can everyday, taking my Pomeranian out for walks at the local park.

Read Brenda’s other blog post here.