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Physiology Question

How is it that when there is inflammation or swelling or other pain inducing circumstance to joints or muscle that more often than not (at least for me) that by placing a compression bandage or hard plastic Ace bandage brace at the point of pain, that the pain can be eliminated or greatly reduced.

I’m getting pain in the brachialis or the brachioradialis area where it crosses the elbow. If I wrap it, no problem, hammer curl or pull ups are o.k.

If there is something there to cause pain, whether swelling or fluid build-up, why does compression reduce discomfort? It?s seems counter intuitive to place more pressure on an area all ready inflamed.

I know?boring topic, but I?m curious.

[quote]rugbyhit wrote:
How is it that when there is inflammation or swelling or other pain inducing circumstance to joints or muscle that more often than not (at least for me) that by placing a compression bandage or hard plastic Ace bandage brace at the point of pain, that the pain can be eliminated or greatly reduced.

I’m getting pain in the brachialis or the brachioradialis area where it crosses the elbow. If I wrap it, no problem, hammer curl or pull ups are o.k.

If there is something there to cause pain, whether swelling or fluid build-up, why does compression reduce discomfort? It?s seems counter intuitive to place more pressure on an area all ready inflamed.

I know?boring topic, but I?m curious.
[/quote]

Boring topic? This is what I went to school for. I personally am fascinated by it. Injury sets off a cascade of events. To make it short, the first thing your body tries to do is rush blood to the area. You feel pain for several reasons, either direct injury to a nerve or changes in the environment around the nerve (including acidity and changes in oxygen saturation). Blood is rushed to the area of injury in order to bring new cells to help rebuild the area.

The swelling of the surrounding tissues and influx of more cells changes the environment around the nerve and pain is the result. My personal thought process is that it is a unique phenomenon meant to inform you to avoid the area so that your body can do it’s job and repair it (this can be good and bad sometimes as activity can also help injuries heal faster so immobility can often work against you).

By putting pressure on the area, you keep the environment from going into flux which keeps those surrounding nerves from being activated and causing more pain. Once pressure is relieved, the environment changes with the influx of more cells, water and oxygen…leading to a sensation of pain due to injury.

I hope I explained that well enough. If you want more detail, let me know.

Another factor to consider is that by applying pressure to a point along the tendon, you are in effect changing that tendon’s point of insertion. When you effectively change the insertion point, you change the leverage arm of the joint, and therefore apply a different force to the muscle. This change in leverage can significantly reduce localized pain within the MTJ.

This is the whole point of the brace we see people using for tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis), jumper’s knee (patella tendinitis), etc. Just another possibility…

I am also fascinated with the complexity of the human body, and being a novice, even more so. I like getting into the minutiae of things. Some people get bored to tears with this kind of stuff.

So X, it can be likened to a pipe that is overfilling with water and swelling, pressure (ace bandage application) constricts the pipe (or nerve in this case) back down to a relatively normal size, pushing out the conditions that crate the nervous system to respond. Sound like a reasonable analogy? And you say personal opinion. I am guessing that there is no consensus within the “physiology” circle on how this conditions/reaction can occur?

Modi, Regarding the point of insertion, I can get my head around that one a little easier.

How recognizable is it to determine when more damage is being done and it is time to discontinue wraps? My initial reaction is that it is subjective, based on how I feel and whether or not the pain is leveling, decreasing or increasing.

I?ve also noticed that in my other arm, which sustained a pulling motion injury a few years back, the bicep (both heads) do not respond as well as my other arm does. The fullness of the pump, (best way I can describe it), does not compare to my other arm. It?s gotten better, but never to original condition.

[quote]rugbyhit wrote:
Sound like a reasonable analogy?[/quote]

I guess.

I said that because perception of pain itself can be lessened or heightened based on overall nervous system stimulus. What I mean is, it is very common for a patient to say that a pain is worse at night. The reason for that is the body is receiving no other stimulus so all perception of pain is open to the one source as opposed to during the day when senses are being stimulated by surroundings.

First of all, instead of saying the point of insertion, I should have said the origin or insertion. All muscles have a point of origin, which is the most proximal point, and an insertion which is the most distal point of the muscle. This is where the muscle becomes more dense and fibrous, also known as your tendon, and attaches to your bone.

Using a compression wrap will often lessen the pain during exercise, and prevent further damage to the muscle/tendon. However, the injury really needs to be treated with RICE(rest, ice, compression, elevation), in order for the swelling to subside. In addition, most practitioners would advise NSAIDS (ibupropen, alieve, etc) to speed the healing process.

So in a roundabout way of answering your question, if if feels like you are doing more harm to your muscle, then you probably are. If the pain subsides after you have warmed the muscle up, good chances are it is a tendinitis, in which case, use the wrap and treat it with RICE after using it. There is an old adage…if it hurts, don’t do it…not bad advice in this case.