Why muscles “burn” and how to put out the fire

July 3, 2010

Chronically contracted muscle continues to burn energy causing a buildup of lactic acid. The more acid there is in the muscle tissue, the more the muscle’s sensory cells become irritated.  A 10% buildup of lactic acid will make the muscle feel tired and a 40% buildup will create a hot burning sensation. When the muscles fibers are continually contracted, the bloodstream can’t do its job of flushing out the lactic acid so you’re left with a muscle that will constantly feel painful.

Try this Feldenkrais® Awareness Through Movement® lesson for chronically tight shoulders. If your right shoulder is the problem you’ll be using your left hand. If your left shoulder is the problem you’ll use your right hand. 

  1.  If you have a mirror close by stand in front of it and look at yourself. Chances are one shoulder will be higher than the other one. At any rate notice how your shoulders rest on top of your rib cage. We’ll come back to this at the end.
  2. Rest your hand on your shoulder (remember, you’re using the opposite hand) with thumb and fingers together; gently massage along that muscle from the tip of the shoulder to the base of the neck.
  3.  Now, lift the shoulder muscle by holding it between your fingers and the heel of your hand (like the muscle is the middle of the sandwich).  While you are holding the muscle, turn your head slowly and gently from side to side 2 or 3 times.  NOTE: Only turn your head a few degrees either way—it may sound crazy but if you strain nothing will happen! Bring your head back to center and then release the shoulder.
  4. Notice how the shoulder has let go.  Is their less tension in the shoulder you just worked with.
  5. Go back to the mirror and look at your shoulders now. What differences do you see?
  6.  Repeat the sequence on the other side.

If you have chronic aching and burning in your low back click here for another Feldenkrais® Awareness Through Movement® lesson.



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Feldenkrais®, Feldenkrais Method®, Awareness Through Movement®, and Functional Integration® are registered service marks of the Feldenkrais Guild® of North America. Guild Certified Feldenkrais Practitioner ™ and Guild Certified Feldenkrais Teacher ™ are certification marks of the Feldenkrais Guild®.