How muscles work, and how to keep them well

When back pain strikes   Understanding muscles and how to keep them well

   In this article I aim to give you an understanding of how muscles work, and how you can keep them well. The more you understand about your body, the easier it is to keep it well, meaning you can enjoy life better!  

  How muscles work – the big picture

Muscles only work in one way – by contracting. Each muscle is connected to two bones (sometimes more). When the muscle shortens, it pulls those two bones towards each other. An easy example is the bicep, which is connected to the upper arm and the lower arm. When it shortens, we see our hand move towards the shoulder.

How muscles work – the small detail

Each muscle consists of millions of strands known as myofilaments (myo= muscle), bound together in bundles (myofibrils), of which several make up a complete fibre. There are essentially two halves to one muscle filament. Each is a long strand which has small hair-like protrusions around it, sticking out at an angle.

The ‘hairs’ on each half stick out at opposite angles, so they interlock with each other (see diagram A). These combine to produce a complete muscle fibre. When the hairs on each half of the strands move back the opposite way, each half pulls itself along the other half, causing a shortened fibre (see diagram B). When thousands or millions of these shorten at once, we have a muscle contraction.

Relaxed muscle filamentsContracted muscle filament

How to keep muscles working well

Muscles positively thrive on being used regularly – anything from light movements to quite heavy usage keeps them strong, helps replenish nutrient and fuel stores, helps remove waste products and improves general maintenance and thus muscle fitness.

Combining this exercise with proper hydration and regular long stretches will keep muscles fit and well for many years. Most people I see who think it is just old age creeping up on them would be fine if we were taught from a young age to sip water and do regular stretches!

If it all goes wrong

Despite our best intentions, sometimes thngs do go wrong. If you are experiencing pain, always contact a professional for advice. Pain is nature’s way of saying “Help!” and should not be ignored.

Thanks for reading this far. Please feel free to comment on this article, especially whether you found it useful or if it can be improved, and I am always happy to hear what articles you would like to read.

Best regards,

Adam Buttery

How muscles work – the big picture

Muscles consist of millions of strands known as myofilaments (myo=

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