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Author Topic: Muscle Tension.  (Read 13287 times)
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roger
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After 12 years of trying, I'm now A OK


« on: February 07, 2011, 09:24:24 AM »

This is the first thread following the introduction because I believe that nothing can be achieved until you first learn to relax the body’s muscles.

Sometime ago, I posted – Are you a gormless ape? - which was a light-hearted attempt to raise this issue, but perhaps it was too light-hearted. So I’ll start again.

We all know that, in CFS/ME, energy conservation is vital, but in my experience, almost all CFSers (including me) spend their lives in a state of constant muscle tension, which is tremendously energy draining. A simple way of establishing if this applies to you, is where you’re now standing or sitting, can you comfortably lower your shoulders? Are your top and bottom teeth touching, can you sense tension in your jaw? If the answer to any of these questions is ‘yes’, then you’re a typical CFSer and I think it makes sense to tackle this problem before trying anything else.

Techniques

First, I have found from personal experience that where an individual has become a chronic muscle tenser, it can take a lot of time and effort to resolve the issue – there’s no quick fix that I know of.

The basic objective is to learn to recognise and instantly release any muscle tension that isn’t part of a necessary physical activity.

The commonly recognised way to relax the body’s muscles is to tightly tension each muscle group then ‘let go’, feeling the tension evaporate. The idea here is that in releasing the tension you’ve just created, you’ll also release the tension that was already there. I have no doubt that for healthy people, this can be effective, but it’s an approach requiring quite a lot of energy production, and where there’s a problem with ATP and the mitochondria, as there seems to be in CFS/ME, creating non-essential energy requirements is not a good idea. So for CFSers, I wouldn’t recommend this approach, despite the fact that you’ll see it promoted everywhere you look.

I’ve found that vigilance and regular gentle practice bring best long term results, but I’m afraid that such vigilance and gentle practice may need to continue for several months before relaxed muscles become your subconscious norm.

By vigilance, I mean the need to be almost constantly scanning your body for tension when you’re up and about. Are your shoulders raised? Are your teeth touching? Is your brow creased? Etc etc. It’s very helpful to enlist the help of those close to you. Ask them to keep an eye on your brow and your shoulders – they should be sloped, not parallel to the floor, your arms should be close to your body, not flared out. Obviously, if you’re standing, your leg muscles will be necessarily tensed, and if you’re lifting, then so will your forearms, biceps and back. So you have to be a bit sensible – is this muscle tense because it needs to be, or simply because I’m tensing it? Eventually, with constant attention you’ll learn to recognise unnecessary tension and quickly release it.

By regular gentle practice, I mean sessions of perhaps fifteen to thirty minutes of lying comfortably down so that NO muscles need be tense. Spend a few minutes clearing your mind as best you can then start from the crown of your head working towards your feet or visa versa, it doesn’t matter which. If the former, are your eyebrows closer to each other than they need be? If so, gently widen the gap, releasing tension in your forehead. If you started with the feet, gently wiggle your toes then let go. Are your feet splayed outwards (relaxed), or are you holding them erect (tense)? If tense, let the tension go so that your feet naturally splay outwards. Continue like this throughout the whole body – are your arms lying loosely by your side with your fingers slightly curled? They should be. Is your head ‘loose’? If you stood up, would it flop to one side? It should.

I won’t go through the whole body, but I hope the above illustrates the concept adequately. At the end of the session, when each muscle group is relaxed, any pre-session pain or discomfort should have eased a little – that’s a good measure of your success.

At the end of the session, lie still for a few minutes, aiming to learn to recognise what relaxed muscles feel like so that, later, you’ll know what you’re aiming for. But don’t anticipate perfect relaxation on your first or early sessions. If tense muscles have been your norm over a period, re-educating them will take time. But they CAN be re-educated, and when they have been, the benefits will be clear.
« Last Edit: February 08, 2011, 08:50:49 AM by linda » Logged

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oldshoremore
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« Reply #1 on: February 07, 2011, 11:30:14 AM »

Hi Roger,

Thanks so much for taking the time to compile this section. clap

It will be really helpful to have all your advice in the one place.

Please keep up the encouragement.

 I know I need to keep being reminded that with persistence and self-compassion I will eventually heal.

Oldiex hug
« Last Edit: February 08, 2011, 08:53:28 AM by linda » Logged

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roger
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« Reply #2 on: February 07, 2011, 11:52:42 AM »

Hi Oldie,

That bit of support means a great deal. Thank you.

Obviously, this board won't be for everyone, and maybe for only a very few, so I've ruminated as to whether to start it or not. Your post has made me think that maybe it'll be worthwhile. So, again, thank you.

BTW - you WILL eventually heal, trust me  Smiley
« Last Edit: February 08, 2011, 08:53:47 AM by linda » Logged

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Queenbeecez
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« Reply #3 on: February 07, 2011, 12:01:50 PM »

Hi Roger

Great post and I look forward to reading lots more x
« Last Edit: February 08, 2011, 08:54:05 AM by linda » Logged
Philpy1999
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« Reply #4 on: February 07, 2011, 12:16:01 PM »

This IS a great post.

I just hope those who do not share this view can simply avoid it, rather than derailing it.
« Last Edit: February 08, 2011, 08:54:20 AM by linda » Logged
agapanthus
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« Reply #5 on: February 07, 2011, 12:27:31 PM »

Thank you Roger. I found myself doing that shoulders hunch ape thing the other day and was immediately reminded of the previous post and got myself in hand.
« Last Edit: February 08, 2011, 08:54:38 AM by linda » Logged

roger
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« Reply #6 on: February 07, 2011, 01:13:25 PM »

Thanks, guys.
« Last Edit: February 08, 2011, 08:54:53 AM by linda » Logged

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« Reply #7 on: February 07, 2011, 03:12:56 PM »

 clap Great start Roger

I've suffered from tense muscles, pain and stiffness in my neck for nearly thirty years (go! I'm old  shocked) as well as on/off struggles against anxiety. I have tried the methods you mention over the years and have found that they really do work.

It does take practice and effort though but like many good things its worth it.  smile
« Last Edit: February 08, 2011, 08:55:16 AM by linda » Logged
roger
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« Reply #8 on: February 07, 2011, 05:00:34 PM »

Thanks, Chris, you're input is very much appreciated.
« Last Edit: February 08, 2011, 08:55:32 AM by linda » Logged

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carrie
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« Reply #9 on: August 03, 2011, 11:35:45 AM »

This sounds fantastic Roger and from what I understand it is what the pain clinic was going to do with me to learn to recognise that tension is there and be able to release it, though there method was by having sessions to get you aware of what tense muscles felt like compared to relaxed msucles, Yours sounds a good way of going about it and it can be done anwywhere.

I will also get  Stu to think about this as I think it might really help and control the current problems. I will tll him to come and have a read!

Thanks again as always your posts are amazing and really helpful.
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« Reply #10 on: August 03, 2011, 12:18:31 PM »

Glad you found it useful, carrie  Smiley
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« Reply #11 on: September 19, 2011, 02:37:27 PM »

have you come across Feldenkrais? you may have already mentioned in this, I am only able to skim read, due to lack of 80% of my brain today.
Anyway, I went on a Feldenkrais workshop, for a day, about a year ago. I was tired and achey, and I came away walking on air. It's incredibly simple, but very affective.
It is a practice that requires you to be very conscious of every muscle you are using, in any action, even at rest, and to make sure you are being efficient with them, only using the absolutely necessary ones. Practicing requires lots of lying down, slow walking, balance exercises, very gentle and very thoughtful. I return to a few really simple lessons from the day whenever I feel tension in my shoulders, and it just drains away.
It can be expensive to go on courses, but they do offer simple workshops around the country... the one I went on was £30 for a whole day. It was definitely worth it.
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roger
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« Reply #12 on: September 19, 2011, 02:52:02 PM »

Yes, it's a great thing, liza, but doing it constantly, long term isn't practicable for most people. General monitoring is all that can really be done for most, with a led session now and then if funds are available.
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« Reply #13 on: September 19, 2011, 03:14:36 PM »

I found the one day workshop was enough for me to keep using the techniques myself, in my own untrained way!!
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roger
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« Reply #14 on: September 19, 2011, 03:25:53 PM »

Great  thumbsup
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« Reply #15 on: September 19, 2011, 09:51:42 PM »

 s_hi

I'm so glad I found this post,I have been trying to relax my muscles before going to bed as I've noticed recently,(or  became aware of) how tense I am whilst trying to get to sleep. So much so, I think if anyone could see me,they would think I had Tourrettes! I actually hurt myself with the 'jumps' my muscles make. I also wake often with a sore mouth,where I have bitten my inside cheek or tongue. I shall definately have a try at what you suggest, if my brain will do the courtesy of remembering how to do it! Or at least,let me focus on just doing the relaxing without drifting off to other matters.  021

Thank you for posting Roger

Sooz xx
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roger
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« Reply #16 on: September 20, 2011, 05:56:21 AM »

Hi sooz,

Have you tried using led relaxation MP3s?

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« Reply #17 on: September 20, 2011, 07:01:33 AM »

Good Morning all x
I'm embarrased to admit Roger, that i'm not sure what a led relaxing MP3 is... sign0085

<<<<puts Dunce hat on and sits in the corner....

Sooz x
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roger
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« Reply #18 on: September 20, 2011, 07:03:51 AM »

Fear not, sooz - it's much worse to pretend you know something when you don't! I'll PM you.
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« Reply #19 on: November 16, 2011, 10:54:28 PM »

Hi Roger,

Thanks a lot for posting this topic on muscle tension. My muscles, literally all over my body have been tense for as long as I can remember, and it is a permanent thing, it never goes away. My whole body from head to toe feels like, I would say "tight"? I notice that my toes are always scrunched and have done this since I was a child, every time I see myself do it now I put them straight again, but it feels like my whole body is doing this without me even realising it. To touch my muscles, they feel like solid rocks! I always thought this wasn't quite normal, and didn't know it was related to the M.E/CFS, so I wanted to reopen this topic as it has enlightened me, and I will try what you have suggested, thank you! Smiley

Amanda
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roger
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« Reply #20 on: November 17, 2011, 07:14:24 AM »

Good luck, Amanda - it's nit easy; you have to be monitoring constantly for quite a long time. But it CAN be done.
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« Reply #21 on: November 17, 2011, 09:49:13 AM »

Thanks for this post Roger. I have a CD to listen to that talks you through relaxing all the muscles.  Of course I did it a few times and then forgot about it so you have spured me on to try again.  c017
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roger
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« Reply #22 on: November 17, 2011, 09:54:10 AM »

Forgetting all about it is the problem with so many useful procedures, CL - I was always doing that!! But the point with muscle tension is that whilst doing regular relaxation sessions is good, the problem won't go away if you go back into tense mode afterwards, hence the need for constant boring but necessary spot checks - are your shoulders raised, is your jaw tense etc.

It IS tedious, but very worthwhile - it's amazing how much pain can evaporate if you get it right. Good luck.
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« Reply #23 on: November 18, 2011, 09:59:41 PM »

Thanks Roger, so do you think the muscles feeling like solid rocks is the muscle tension? My neck and shoulders are so bad they lock sometimes, and it's also really bad in my arms!

Amanda
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roger
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« Reply #24 on: November 19, 2011, 07:42:11 AM »

Hi Amanda,

Generally, yes, unless you happen to be a body builder  Smiley
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