Muscle Plasticity: what is it, and how does massage improve it?

Muscle plasticity is the muscle’s ability to change its shape and function depending on what you need it to do. More plasticity means quicker reaction times when you trip on the stairs or bend over wrong to pick up your keys. Scar tissue and trigger points reduce your range of motion and your muscle performance by preventing them from stretching to their normal range of motion.

While scar tissue and trigger points are the main reasons clients come to us, most do not know what these terms mean, only that they’re hurting. The pain stems from these issues not being addressed correctly to ensure proper healing. No matter what sort of athletic activity you engage in – running/walking, weights, sports, track, martial arts – muscles get injured over time.

Big injuries are easy to understand: breaks, sprains, dislocations, torn ligaments or muscles or tendons. Following an injury, you likely received some medical attention in the form of an X-ray, a boot, ice, or surgery or pain medication. Physical therapy or rehab may have been part of your process. For smaller injuries, ibuprofen and ice typically relieve enough pain for you to move forward with life.

But without proper attention, muscles develop scar tissue – much like an external scrape develops a scar. Scar tissue can lead to pain, but even without pain, it will be weaker and more prone to repeated injury…leading to a buildup of more scar tissue and less plasticity (flexibility).

Trigger points are well-established pain patterns in each muscle, caused when the muscle experiences trauma due to overuse, repetitive stress, too much exertion, and more. When the attached fibers don’t properly release, they become bigger and tighter – and more painful – over time, causing a trigger point which you experience as kinks in your neck, or stiffness of a joint, migraine or tension headache, burning or tingling shoulders. Like scar tissue, these weaken the muscle and reduce your flexibility and ability to enjoy a pain-free life.

Without full range of motion or flexibility, the muscles are prone to re-injury more easily and more frequently. This leads to more recovery time, more discomfort and pain for you, and more scar tissue buildup, creating a cycle of injury as you age. With the increase of inflammation, you experience more pain and feel older and more tired.

Massage breaks up the scar tissue and trigger points to return your muscles to full range of motion, reduce your pain, and improve your sense of wellbeing and enjoyment of life.