Constant Alertness and Extensor Muscles and Fatigue and Pain

As I was being Rolfed today, I heard something that I had never heard before. The limbic system, or the part of our brain that is the most reptilian (fight or flight) is linked the extensor muscles. When a person becomes alert, the extensors straighten the body and neck and lift the head. Imagine a deer eating grass in a meadow and it hears a startling sound. It lifts it’s head. It’s alert. After the starting sound passes and there’s no sign of danger, the deer will relax and begin to eat the grass again.

So imagine humans who work in high-demanding jobs and have young children and commute to work. Or, imagine people who have two high-demanding jobs, or one that keeps them for long hours. People in these kinds of situations are on constant alert. They are on alert at work, on the way to and from work and at home. Time for rest is not considered until it’s time for bed.

It is in this high-stress kind of situation that the extensor muscles will fire. If the alert is constant, the firing will be constant. This firing will fatigue the body and cause low grade inflammation. This is the link between stress and back pain or neck pain or any kind of pain that comes from extensor muscles.

If you see a deer in the winter, you will see a hard deer. It will look haggard and tough. Winter is a hard time for deer. Winter is a time for being on alert for the search of food and constant muscle firing with the shivers. A winter deer is a stressed deer. When summer comes around and the food is plentiful, the deer is more relaxed and looks more supple. When a wind blows and ruffles the leaves, the deer becomes alert for a moment until the wind passes and then relaxes.

People in high-stress situations need for the wind to stop blowing so their body can relax.

4 thoughts on “Constant Alertness and Extensor Muscles and Fatigue and Pain

  1. Conny Reply

    Hi Abraham, since I am thinking of trying out Rolfing I wonder what your experience with it is. From what I’ve read on your blog I have kind of the same “background” as you: age 31, computer scientist, got into EF about 3 years ago, crossfitting since 3 months. Unfortunately my rounded shoulders and lordotic lower back inhibit my technique especially overhead movements like OHS, handstand and the like. So I was searching the web and found some recommendations of Rolfing. I’m a little skeptical however since the evidence for it seems strictly anecdotal and not backed up scientifically. Any tips greatly appreciated. Conny

  2. Abraham Reply

    Conny, I couldn’t say for sure that Rolfing would cure any ill. However, it doesn’t take a great deal of money, time or effort to find out if there is a benefit.

    I did go from severe sciatica pain that made me consider wetting the bed instead of making a 20 ft trip to the bathroom to doing chinese acrobatics. Granted, doing those kinds of movements might have healed me if I just started them after being Rolfed, but Rolfing was the catalyst. My short, tight hip flexors, glute minimus, and biceps femoris got longer and looser. Given that I had anterior pelvic tilt and short, tight hamstrings, that was just the adjustment I needed to then retrain my muscles.

    I would suspect a Rolfer would would work on losening your medial rotators (pectoris major and coracobrachialis) and prescribe strenthening the external rotators and work on bringing the scapula down and back. For the lordosis, I would expect that there would be an opening of the hip flexors (psoas major, tensor fascae latae) and the spinal extensors (erector spinae and thoracolumbar aponeurosis) and then presribe strengthening of the rectus abdominus and glutes to change the posture. The losening is immediate, but turning on of the neuromotor units for the muscles you might want to tighten will take around 6 weeks or so. The progression might be something like that. Pardon any misspellings on the anatomy.

    One thing is for sure. Rolfing can be painful.

    Abe

  3. Conny Reply

    Hi Abraham, since I am thinking of trying out Rolfing I wonder what your experience with it is. From what I’ve read on your blog I have kind of the same “background” as you: age 31, computer scientist, got into EF about 3 years ago, crossfitting since 3 months. Unfortunately my rounded shoulders and lordotic lower back inhibit my technique especially overhead movements like OHS, handstand and the like. So I was searching the web and found some recommendations of Rolfing. I’m a little skeptical however since the evidence for it seems strictly anecdotal and not backed up scientifically. Any tips greatly appreciated. Conny

  4. Conny Reply

    Hi Abraham, since I am thinking of trying out Rolfing I wonder what your experience with it is. From what I’ve read on your blog I have kind of the same “background” as you: age 31, computer scientist, got into EF about 3 years ago, crossfitting since 3 months. Unfortunately my rounded shoulders and lordotic lower back inhibit my technique especially overhead movements like OHS, handstand and the like. So I was searching the web and found some recommendations of Rolfing. I’m a little skeptical however since the evidence for it seems strictly anecdotal and not backed up scientifically. Any tips greatly appreciated. Conny

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