Due to fluctuations in material costs and changes in manufacturing, we will adjust all product prices beginning July 1st, 2024.
  • Live In-Person Customer Service

    Speak to a real person by calling:
    Mo-Fr, 9AM - 4PM Pacific time.

Strength vs flexibility

Strength vs flexibility
Strength & Flexibility
Strong Vs. Long: Which Muscles Truly Perform Better?
Many areas of life have a Central Debatewith parties on opposing sides arguing their points ... politics is an obvious example ... religion ... diet & nutrition ... etc.

But you might NOT know that Muscle Health, Fitness, Sports Physiology, and the entire field of Physical Medicine has such a central debate, that is ...

If you had a choice, would you rather have your muscles be LONG or STRONG?


Which muscle performs better, suffers less pain and dysfunction, and has better health, a muscle with Full Length, Flexibility and Range of Motion or a muscle with maximum Strength, Power and Force?

You can spend considerable time, literally hours per day if you choose, either stretching and flexing your muscles or both... Is one more important? Should we be focusing on either one or both?

We've all seen bodybuilders with enormous, strong muscles that are so pronounced just looking at them with their shirts off is like an anatomy class in itself!

Of course, it has occurred to more than a few of us that it might be hard to do some normal daily activities with muscles that big, such as turning around to put a seat belt on, scratch a back itch, and a few other more personal items...

Likewise, we've come some across incredible acrobats and yoga masters who seem to defy the laws of physics with their flexibility. Many of us wonder it they had to practice stretching 12 hours a day to get that flexible or were just born that way.

However, these extreme examples are not what we are mainly addressing in this issue, though they certainly still apply to these eccentric individuals, as well!

Our intention with this series of musculoskeletal updates is to address and empower the common man and woman who deals with a strange modern lifestyle comprised of olympic amounts of sitting and other abnormally contracted postures and suffers a great majority of pain referred from their very own muscles!

So, the question we address here is...

For the average man and woman, who wishes to live a life free of pain and use their muscles and joints as much and as long as they would like to without suffering pain and degeneration, what should they be focusing on when spending their precious time working on their own physical bodies ... Strength or Flexibility?

Believe it or not, for as far advanced as the medical profession has come, the answer to this question, which was discovered HALF A CENTURY AGO by the 1st ever female physician in the White House, has somehow escaped the attention it deserves... and the attention we deserve!

Perhaps the medical school curriculum was already too full? Perhaps doctors simply didn't have the time to master a whole new all-natural form of pain treatment modality? Or perhaps the popular demand for a pill to swallow instead of self-care instructions was too high at that time for this incredibly effective modality to emerge into the spotlight where it belongs?

Whatever the reason, we now know through president JFK's personal physician, Dr. Janet Travell's and Dr. Simons' work, the answer to Physical Medicine's central debate is clear:

"Full Range of Motion" (beyond just flexibility) is the most important aspect determining the health of a muscle and relief of pain symptoms in the majority of patients.

So, in this issue, we offer for your understanding, a brief explanation (it's not a matter of just doing stretches) of this important fact of how our muscles work and the key to avoiding an enormous amount of unnecessary pain and suffering and dysfunction throughout any age of our lives.

*The information in this article is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical condition and does not substitute for a thorough evaluation by a medical professional. Please consult your physician to determine whether these self-care tips are appropriate for you.

The key to understanding how to live a pain free life is to understand that much of the pain we experience comes from Muscles and the sheath that covers them called "Fascia". Just beneath our skin, covering all the muscles and bones in our entire bodies is a sheath, sort of like a giant panty hose, that is full of nerves that can cause pain wherever a kind of adhesion or bunching up occurs. Full range of motion means that this sheath is free of adhesions and glides smoothly over the structures it covers whenever we move.

Furthermore, each muscle is much more than a single entity acting to move your bones and joints around... a muscle is composed of many smaller units called Myofibrils. Each of these muscle fibers acts individually and in conjunction with other fibers to perform the complex movements that our muscles are capable of. Not surprising, full range of motion means that each of these Myofibrils operates properly.

The real miracle of the work that Dr. Travell and Dr. Simons developed was understanding that even the smallest adhesions or taut bands in our fascia or muscle fibers can cause a Pain Reflex Arc (Figure 6 below) that can lead to debilitating levels of pain in an otherwise healthy individual.

They found consistently, that wherever these adhesions or taut bands were found, predictable pain patterns were caused in all of their subjects, such that a map of pain all over the body could be created and linked back to the exact muscle/fascial adhesion or taut band that was causing the pain.

For better or worse, they named these adhesions / taut bands
"Myofascial Trigger Points" due to the fact that they exist in muscle ("myo-") or fascia ("-fascial") and because theytrigger pain ("trigger point") in a consistent pattern within all patients.

When pain is "triggered" by one of these Trigger Points, it can send pain signals called "Nociception" to your spinal chord causing a pain signal to be sent up to your brain and an inhibition signal to be sent back to the muscle fiber or fascia, leading to a paralyzing effect, restricting normal motion for that area of your body.

This effect is often excruciatingly painful, much like a charley horse, and it can occur in any area of the body and remain there for years unless treated. Sometimes these
Trigger Points are dormant ("latent trigger points") just waiting for a long plane flight or bad night's sleep to suddenly "come to life". Or they can be active all the time, causing us to deal with pain on a daily basis, sometimes even leading to long term disability.

Luckily, the resulting pain patterns and restrictions of movement are so consistent that with proper training, a therapist can look at a patient's pain and range of motion and determine with simple testing methods using only their hands and a few noninvasive tools, exactly where the trigger point is located that is causing the patient to suffer so much.

Notice in the picture above how much pain in the head and around the eye is caused by trigger points in a muscle you've seen in previous issues called the
SCM (Sternocleidomastoid Muscle). This pain is often labeled various forms of headache, including migraine, when it really just means there are taut bands of muscle and fascia in the front of the neck that can be treated and eliminated with the proper simple techniques!

Luckily, the resulting pain patterns and restrictions of movement from Trigger Points are so consistent that with proper training, a Trigger Point Therapist can examine a patient's pain and range of motion with simple testing methods using only their hands and a few noninvasive tools, and determine to a high degree of accuracy where the Trigger Point is located that is causing the patient to suffer so much!

Even luckier still, the treatment is simply to remove the adhesion/taut band with an easy to follow protocol of
Heat, Compression, and Movement Exercise that anyone can learn to perform!

The secret to Full Range of Motion is the COMPRESSION part of this protocol. This compression treatment has a far different effect than regular bulk stretches we learn in PE class or in Physical Therapy.

This is a critical point to understand...
Bulk stretches for the entire muscle do not address or remove trigger points!

What Dr. Travell and Dr. Simons work shows is that the regular bulk stretching exercises many of us are familiar with mainly stretch the parts of the muscle that are not adhered into the taut band/adhesion, effectively having little to no effect on the Trigger Point and therefore the patient's painful or restrictive condition.

However, instead, COMPRESSION directly on top of the offending Trigger Point "micro-stretches" the myofibrils
in the taut band, freeing up the adhesion and bringing the much needed relief and restoration of function for the suffering individual.

Naturally, there is a lot of biology going on at the microscopic level in this seemingly simple process, such as blood flow, chemical messengers, pain receptors, etc., but our hope right now is that you take away this very important distinction...

Our main point to emphasize is that it is through this vital yet simple
COMPRESSION step that the Reflex Arc is abated and Full Range of Motion can be restored. It is one of the secrets of success that has made Trigger Point Therapists in such high demand when a good one opens their doors to those suffering various forms of physical pain.

Of course, as we know, pain can return even after it goes away through proper treatment. The field of
Trigger Point Therapy has a whole list of solutions for this situation, as well. If it happens that a Trigger Point returns after being treated, there are usually "Underlying Perpetuating Factors" that exist, such as a shorter leg on one side, a long second toe, improper breathing habits, short upper arms, etc., that a trained Trigger Point Therapist knows to look for. and correct.

Thanks to the dedicated teachers in the field since Dr. Travell and Dr. Simons have passed on, there are a growing number of
trigger point therapists throughout the world now whose training allows them to quickly identify and eliminate trigger points and any underlying perpetuating factors that cause them to return.

With simple testing methods and treatment almost anyone can perform themselves, the major cause of most of our physical pain can be eliminated!

If you or someone you know is in pain, refer them to a trigger point therapist to see if this amazing work can eliminate the cause of their problem safely and effectively without surgery or medication needed!

Happy Self-Care, Dear Readers! Keep up the good work!
Free Muscle News Subscription

Is Your First Toe Too Short?

If you have Morton's Foot Syndrome, also known as a 'Long Second Toe', an inexpensive solution can be placed in your shoe that could prevent and resolve:
  • Poor Posture
  • Foot, Knee, & Hip Pain
  • Low Back Pain
  • Neck and Shoulder Pain
  • Headaches
  • Bunion and other Foot Deformations

Ask about Posture Control Insoles and the incredible benefits patients experience wearing them. You can pick up a pair at our lower patient prices in our office.

Ultra Thin Insoles

Do Your Feet Suffer
from Hyperpronation?

Watch this Video
to Find Out

A real alternative to custom orthotics and conventional arch support insoles


Visit our blog and e-mail archive