There is a 3 part series of articles explaining how the nervous system is related to pain on Todd Hargrove’s blog.
I would strongly recommend all bodyworkers to have a look at it as it is a very simple explanation of some key concepts.
Some points he raised:
- Nerves are flexible and slide back and forth as the body moves.
- Nerves are very large consumers of blood and oxygen, consuming 20% of the body’s oxygen while only making up 2% of the body’s mass.
- Nerves can become irritated when they are not allowed to move as freely as they need. eg. when a vertebral disc is pushing against them, when an arthritic porion of a bone presses on them.
- When the nerves become irritated, the body will react by limiting the motion that causes irritation or damage. eg. if the sciatic nerve is irritated, the central nervous system will prevent the hamstrings from lengthening in order to prevent over stretching or injuring the nerve.
- In this way it is possible that a hamstring may be tight due to a damaged sciatic nerve, in which case traditional stretching techniques may not be best.
- Traditional stretching techniques often can be uncomfortable and use a certain “no pain no gain” attitude. This in turn can overstretch a damaged nerve and actually slow down your chances of pain relief.
- Understanding the nerve may be irritated at some point in its path, the following principles should be used when stretching:
- It is necessary to move very slowly and calmly, staying within the pain free range.
- The central nervous system needs to accept that the new range can be achieved without pain or discomfort in order for the stretch to work.
- Feldenkreis method and Tai Chi are stretching techniques which incorporate these