Cause of muscle pain runs deep

By Mac Lee
Feb. 6, 2018 at 8:57 p.m.
Updated Feb. 7, 2018 at 1 a.m.

Mac Lee

Mac Lee   Contributed Photo for The Victoria Advocate

Muscle pain is elusive and confusing. Two days before Christmas at the gym, I was lifting more weight than I should have. I noticed tightness in my lower back but dismissed it.

Unfortunately, my lower back didn't dismiss me. I had a hard time moving, getting out of bed, etc., for more than a couple of weeks.

Those of you who have suffered this condition understand the pain.

Luckily, world ranked hurdler, massage therapist and now chiropractor student Chris Thomas and I had scheduled a work day during the holidays. We were preparing our educational program for the upcoming Star of the South dental meeting. We were to discuss muscles, posture, TMJ, etc. with dentists and their teams.

Of course, I took the opportunity for Chris to help me with my back pain. The funny thing is that he didn't work on my back; he worked on my stomach area at the hip bone. He worked on the very important psoas muscle, which is deep inside the pelvis. It runs from the ribs through the pelvis and attaches to the upper leg. It and other muscles surrounding the gut and pelvis make up our "core" muscles.

He explained that while I was lifting, my core muscle group failed to activate and do its job, which shifted the work to the lower back. The lower back muscles said, "Hey, that's not my job" and retaliated by going into spasm. This muscle phenomenon is called altered motor control (AMC). AMC is when injury or the brain shuts down the major muscle(s) responsible for a specific movement of the body, causing other muscles to make the move. This stresses the entire system, and pain follows.

So what does lower back pain have to do with a dental seminar or dental newspaper column? If you think about it, a muscle is just a muscle no matter where it is in the body. Dentists and teams have problems with their backs and with Forward Head Posture from bending over the mouth all day, every day. They are also responsible for everything that goes on in the mouth, including TMJ/TMD. TMD is not taught in dental school, so few dentists know how to treat the more difficult cases.

Since one out of six people have some kind of head pain and most of it is TMD-related, this column is meant to educate the public and other health care professionals.

We gave the seminar Friday. Chris and I took the dentist audience from muscle pain in the back to pain in the head and neck from the same problem: altered motor control. If on biting down, the teeth were to hit in an unbalanced way, the brain may shut down the major muscles that open and close the mouth - the same principle of my core muscles shutting down. Sometimes this "locks" the jaw in an open or closed position. Other times, the neck and upper body muscles attempt to open and close the jaw. Since that is not their job, they get overstressed, go into spasm and create pain.

Trigger points in the muscles of the neck can radiate pain to the temples and ears and behind the eyes. They can be so painful, they can be misdiagnosed as migraines. And I am talking about mild, moderate or severe head pain.

To me, this next concept is totally mind-boggling, but once altered motor control is understood, it is easy to visualize. In certain instances, a bad TMD bite can create tingling in the arms and the back of the hands. There is a very complex trunk of nerves and blood vessels that runs between the scalene muscles of the neck in the collar bone area. In a very unique set of circumstances, altered motor control of the chewing muscles causes spasms in the scalene muscles, which squeezes nerve and arteries. This can result in tingling in the arms and the back of the hand.

I feel extremely fortunate to be learning, sharing and using such fascinating information that can help people lead pain-free lives. If you or a loved one has pain in or around the head, please visit my website to learn more.

Dr. Mac Lee practices in Edna. He is an international speaker and trainer to dentists. He is dedicated to educate the public about dental disease. To learn more about dentistry, visit or call 361-782-7191.



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