4 Qualities of a Healthy Muscle
Clients often ask me what it is I am feeling, or feeling for, when I give a massage. What is it that determines where I work and how? Of the many indications of imbalance that I can feel for in the body, here are four general signs that your muscle tissue is healthy.
1) Takes pressure without pain
Apply straight pressure to a healthy muscle and nothing really happens. Apply pressure to an imbalance muscle and you’re going to sensation ranging from tingling, numbness to sharp pain. This discomfort might be felt right away or after sustaining that pressure for a few seconds. Looking for proof? Poke around on your quads or forearms and it probably won’t be long till you find a spot that makes you go, “Ouch!”
2) Has a supple feel
Healthy muscle is hydrated, allowing fluid to move easily between and through its cells. Essentially this feels a bit like a more pliable version of a stress ball filled with sand. Muscle that is ropy, stringy, or hard is often dehydrated whereas overhydrated muscles are congested taking on a grainy, spongy, or bubble-wrap like feel. Both of these conditions can lead to muscle cramps, spasms, and pain.
3) Is adaptable
There is a huge emphasis on strengthening when it comes to muscle health, the thought process being that stronger is always better. This makes sense as muscles that hold no tone are nonfunctional. Think of having a contortionist’s flexibility but not enough strength to lift a chair. However, muscles that are too toned are also nonfunctioning as can be seen in the case of a bodybuilder who is not flexible enough to turn down his or her own shirt collar. Optimal muscles are adaptable, holding enough to tone to support the body and able to perform physical tasks, but are flexible enough to switch positions and bend to prevent injury. It all comes back to balance.
4) Is warm
An area where the body is too hot or too cold are places where imbalances exist. Places where the skin is too hot is an indication of inflammation which can be a sign of soft tissue injury if the skin is intact. Where cold is present there is likely ischemia or lack of blood flow which prevents nutrients from moving in and metabolic waste from washing out. Warmth indicates that blood is moving optimally making for healthy, happy muscles.