I created the “Muscle of the Month” because I think it is important to know the names of major muscles and muscle groups. The more you know about your body, the better equipped you are to take proper care of it. This knowledge will make it easier for you to figure out what might be going wrong within your musculoskeletal system and, more importantly, give you the vocabulary and information to have more useful and informative conversations with your doctor and others in your health care team.
As usual, I’m going to chirp in a little disclaimer here: I’m talking about bones and muscles, the basic building blocks of the body’s physical structure. There is a lot more to the body than muscles and bones; the musculoskeletal system is only one of many systems of the body. The digestive system and immune system might be a couple of others that you’ve heard of before. But I am a massage therapist, so I look through that lens. Just as a surgeon comes to a consult wearing surgery goggles, I’m wearing massage goggles. There is nothing wrong with either. We use a completely different set of tools to approach and solve problems concerning the human body. I think it is important to have these different views with any problem concerning the body. My point is, I’m a muscle person, ask me about muscles, but don’t take it for gospel. I don’t diagnose, my educational background is nothing compared to your doctors’.
In addition to the names of muscles, I want to share what they do, how they move your body and what can go wrong. My hope is to bring awareness to how easy it is to take care of your muscles, and also bring some awareness to the remarkable amount of work that it takes to keep the human body alive and moving. Perhaps you will want to take better care of your body if you appreciate the trouble it goes through everyday to keep you moving!
The most important thing you need to know about your body: The human body was built to move! Our muscles and bones create the structure which holds everything in, and moves everything around. So… our musculoskeletal structure was designed with mobility and durability in mind! Therefore, your body will be at its best if you are using it. A lot of problems that occur within the muscles arrive because of lack of movement, staying in the same position for a long period of time, or only doing a small number of movements all the time. A simple way to avoid pain is to move frequently, and put yourself in positions opposite to the norm. For example: if you sit at a desk all day, get up and move every hour or so; walk, lay on the ground, put your arms behind you instead of in front of you. Why? You ask… Your body is smart. It pays attention to the positions you stay in, and tries to make things easier on you by locking muscles in those positions. If you sit at a desk all day, muscles in your chest (pectoralis major), abdomen (rectus abdominus), and hips (psoas) all contract, and stay in a shortened position even after you move; because locking in a shortened (contracted) position conserves energy.
Constant communication between your muscles and your brain orchestrate the most intricate to the most robust movement without you putting any conscious thought into it. Just like you don’t consciously have the thought, “okay breathe in: that means you diaphragm, internal and external intercostals, pectoralis minor, and you too serratus posterior superior! Breathe in!” (yes, those are all real names of real breathing muscles used in inhalation) It is a fairly miraculous thing that the brain and spinal nerves are such amazing multi-taskers. Since we have no clue just how much communication is happening in the background to keep us alive and moving, it is not surprising that we take for granted the masterpiece that is the human body.
I’d like to share my appreciation of this marvel with you in the hopes that you will pat yourself on the back a little more often just for doing a great job of breathing! And maybe, just maybe, you will feel inspired to take better care of this one and only, absolutely amazing body that you have been gifted!