Once the body has developed trigger points (automobile accidents or chronic overuse are common causes), those muscles remain vulnerable to pain for many years. Over or under-exerting can prompt muscle strain and reactivate the old pain pattern. Therefore, it’s important to stay consistent with moderate exercise—not too much and not too little, what I call “Goldilocks” movement. Just right.
Lifting too much for a muscle’s strength, say when moving a heavy dresser for example, can start the chain of trigger points. However, “too much” comes in more common activities, too. As we approach the gym with New Year’s gusto, the temptation to do too much is strong. Just five more pounds or an extra rep or two is enough to push over the edge of healthy movement. We don’t have to do Papa Bear weight lifting.
The elliptical and treadmills can be triggers, too. Increasing the resistance, going for too long, or giving yourself a big incline can all overload muscles in the hips and low back. Any repetitive motion makes muscles more susceptible. Stay conscious of your body, listen to when it says “Enough” and stop. Avoid Mama Bear-style overcommitment.
Too little movement, like not exercising for a week or sitting at a desk for eight hours in a day, is an important factor, too. Whenever the body is still, muscles, connective tissue, cartilage, and the discs between the vertebrae lose their healthy consistency and increase the exposure to trigger points when they are used.
When a muscle is strained in any way you’ll have to back off exercise for some time to let it heal. If that happens, stay active with gentle movements like undulation. Do your best to stay on the middle course and do what’s “Just Right!” for you.