From the title, you might think this post is about the conspiracy of Big Tissue not releasing a cure for the common cold, raising the demand for booger catching devices. Maybe even a rant about how unethical it is to waste so much paper on the sniffles (biological material voids the recyclability of tissue.) Alas, this is about neither of those things. We’re talking tissue in the biological sense; the stuff that makes up that cool thing your brain moves around (your body.) Specifically, mechanical tissue i.e. your muscles, tendons, and ligaments.
What’s the issue, you ask? Great question, but hold your horses. First let me set the scene with some explanation of what we’re dealing with here.
Super cool things that move our bones around, create heat, and impress people. They are really good at stretching and shortening and have a lot of blood flow, allowing them to adapt quickly.
Tough ropy thing at the ends of a muscle that connect the muscle to a bone. They can be stiff or pliable, depending on the needs of a specific joint. They do not receive a lot of blood flow, and are therefore slow to adapt.
More tough ropy stuff that connects bones to other bones. Great at making sure bones stay where they should be. Just like the tendons, not a lot of blood flow, so they have a tough time adapting.
Now that the biology lesson is over, here’s the issue with tissue: it’s like a three year old. If it doesn’t like something, it’s gonna tell you “no.” Often violently, with a very wet face. On the other hand, if it DOES want to do something and you don’t let it, violence and tears also ensue. So what do we do? Panic and throw sugar at it until it crashes from the insulin spike? Let it cry until it hyperventilates and passes out? No. None of the above.
There are two options. The first is to anticipate the toddlers needs and avoid an outburst. If the first doesn’t work, the second is to sweet talk the toddler back to its happy place. Still enjoying this toddler analogy? Me too, but let's get real.
What I’m saying here is that it's really easy for your muscles, tendons, and ligaments to be in pain, or freak out. If you lift something heavy that your tissue wasn’t ready for, you might have pain. If you sit too long and don’t use a tissue like it wants, you might have pain. If you shrug your shoulders while answering emails all day, you might have pain. It is a very fickle aspect of the human body and odds are you’ve dealt with it multiple times in your life. But the important thing to remember is that tissue can be managed one of those two ways I mentioned.
You can anticipate its needs with strength training so that its ready for anything you throw at it, or you can sweet talk it with strength training and mobility to get it back to a happy place. Either way, making a tissue stronger (in smart and specific ways) is most likely the best option. Good thing you’ve got a kick-ass gym to whip your tissue into shape!
Understanding tissue is an important step in understanding pain. Often the dull aches and the pin point owies that sneak into your body are just tissue tantrums. Things that can be managed with exercise. Not faulty joints that will never get better or bad backs that probably need surgery. Just three year olds who need some attention.
If you have had a recent accident or abrupt event and developed chronic or increasing pain accompanied by swelling and discoloration please seek out a doctor. If you have chronic pain that is often accompanied by burning or numbness, also seek out a doctor. These are signs of structural damage (broken bones, tearing, etc.) or neurologic issues that we as trainers are not equipped to deal with.