How to Break Muscle Spasms Using High Frequency H-Wave treatment | Kelly Starrett
In Kelly’s practice, most of his staff, trainers, patients, and athletes are comfortable using neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) to facilitate muscle contraction to dump lymphatics, decongest tissues, as well as enhance and speed recovery processes. When an NMES device also has a high frequency setting for pain control, like H-Wave does, then we can help manage painful situations in addition to increasing circulation and tissue decongestion. Kelly describes how this high frequency setting can also be used to break muscle spasm when your brain gets a signal to lock down the musculature, even though the tissue may not be damaged.
The dual settings allow us to switch from non-fatiguing muscle contractions which are very comfortable, to a high frequency that can create a significant analgesic effect. This high frequency typically runs through a joint (like a painful hip) or along the spine, in order to give the brain a break from the pain signals it’s receiving. Sometimes this on-demand pain relief can even last hours after the initial treatment.
As mentioned above, high frequency can also be used when your muscles are in “lock-down” mode, otherwise called “protective spasming”. For example, when the spine or joint gets to its end-range and we might lose control a little, your brain can turn the surrounding musculature into a tonic lockdown.
When your body is in this lockdown mode, a physician might suggest medications like muscle relaxants, or an acupuncturist might try to break this high-tone muscle using needles. Kelly references what Pavel Tsatsouline called “shutdown isometrics” which he used to restore positioning when doing the splits. These types of isometrics basically mean that if you made the tissues work hard enough for long enough then eventually it would fatigue and let go, allowing the muscles to relax.
Kelly adapts this concept by using the electrical current of high frequency on the H-Wave device to break the muscle lock down. What ends up happening, is that after about 30-45 minutes of high frequency input we see a break in tone, aka break in muscle spasm. The muscles and tissues start to relax, the nervous system downregulates, thus reducing the threat response. After which, we can then switch back to the low frequency pumping, bringing nutrients in and flushing waste out.
Sometimes it can be tough to use low frequency first, since you’re basically trying to pump out tissues that are in neurologic lockdown. If you can use high frequency to break the muscle spasm and get out of that “high-tone” then you can get back to the pumping mode which creates “movement without motion” – restoring blood flow, releasing of nitric oxide, and all other downstream effects.
This is just one way to handle this type of acute situation as opposed to using medications or acupuncture. So the high frequency setting can not only be used to manage persistent and chronic pain, but can also be repurposed to break muscle spasm.
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