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Muscular Hypervigilance and Pain: Understanding the Connection

By Marie Pham



Living with daily pain can drastically affect our posture and lead to increased tension in the body. A common culprit behind this issue is muscular hypervigilance, which refers to heightened muscle tension and sensitivity. It is a natural response of our nervous system aiming to protect and immobilise the body, a mechanism crucial for early stages of healing.


However, when pain persists for months or even years, muscular hypervigilance becomes an overprotective response. This physiological reaction can stem from stress, anxiety, trauma, or an overprotective guarded posture. In this state, muscles remain tense and contracted, even when there is no immediate threat or need for physical exertion. Unfortunately, this prolonged muscle tension can result in decreased joint flexibility and overall body deconditioning.


Muscular hypervigilance manifests as sustained muscle contraction, leading to the formation of trigger points or muscle knots. These hyperirritable spots within the muscle fibers can contribute to further discomfort and pain. Moreover, this state of heightened muscle tension restricts the normal range of motion of joints, limiting flexibility and increasing stress on muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Constant muscle tension due to hypervigilance can exhaust and overwork muscles, making them more susceptible to strain, injury, and subsequent pain.


Breaking the Cycle: Strategies for Relief


Fortunately, there are strategies to start breaking the cycle of muscular hypervigilance and pain. Here are some recommendations:


1. Stress Reduction Techniques: Engage in stress reduction techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, mindfulness, and relaxation exercises. These practices help calm the nervous system and reduce the tendency for muscular hypervigilance.


2. Therapeutic Interventions: Consider self-massage, myofascial release, trigger point therapy, or heat/cold therapy under the guidance of a pain physiotherapist. These techniques can help relax the muscles and alleviate pain, particularly if you experience heightened pain responses to light touch or movement.


3. Stretching and Strengthening Exercises: Incorporate regular exercise routines that include stretching and strengthening exercises. Stretching helps release muscle tension and improve flexibility, while strength training supports proper muscle balance and stability.


4. Posture Awareness: Pay attention to your posture to promote relaxation of the muscles and learn to find comfortable and healthy positions for your body. Working with a pain physiotherapist can guide you in finding postures that reduce muscular hypervigilance and support overall well-being.


5. Self-Care Practices: Adopt self-care practices that prioritise relaxation and overall well-being. Ensure you get sufficient sleep, maintain a balanced nutrition, stay hydrated, and engage in activities that bring joy and alleviate stress.


By understanding the intricate relationship between muscular hypervigilance and pain, individuals can proactively manage their symptoms. Implementing stress reduction techniques, seeking professional guidance, engaging in appropriate exercises, and practicing self-care can help break the cycle and pave the way for relief and improved quality of life. Remember, consulting with a healthcare professional or pain specialist is essential for personalised advice and guidance tailored to your specific needs.

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Dec 14, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Very helpful!

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