How many of these boxes do you tick?
– Are you female (you’d have to be if we’re talking about Cinderella) – Do your shoulders ache even when you’re not at work? – Did your shoulder pain just appear for no obvious reason? – Do you do desk work most of the day? – Does massage only give you temporary relief? – Does stretching not seem to help much either?
If you’re that person then science has been showing quite a lot of interest in your problem in recent years and has even given birth to a hypothesis –that Cinderella muscle fibres are the cause of your woes.
A muscle is made out of lots of individual fibres, as you know when you pick a bunch of them out of your teeth when eating steak! Ordinarily, muscle fibres start being used in order of size. The smallest fire first when you’re doing really light work (like typing) and the big boys are only called on when stronger contractions are needed, for example to lift or move something.
Mother Nature is not stupid, of course, so She designed the small fibres for long days at work. They’re built for endurance rather than strength. That’s why they’re found in the muscles that control our posture all the time you’re out of bed. The Cinderella Hypothesis suggests that some small fibres get used so much that they never have enough time to recover and become dysfunctional as a result. Cinderella because first up to work, but last to stop.
When things go wrong
Research has shown that in long standing sufferers of shoulder pain, some of these small fibres increase in size compared to healthy ones, whilst their blood supply gets choked. Calcium is a key chemical involved in muscle fibre contraction. But ironically, sustained calcium release over a long time can damage the muscle fibre cells and the parts within cells (mitochondria) responsible for creating energy. This can lead to irregular firing of the fibre even when it should be at rest doing nothing apart snoozing and repairing itself if necessary.
It’s a bit like oxygen: vital for us, but in certain amounts and mixed with other stuff like carbon dioxide for breathing. We can’t handle too much of it.
You can do something about it
Osteopathic treatment will help. For one thing, it’s important to make sure there’s no additional problem, a neck joint for example, which is contributing to the problem. But in the long term, doing some good old strength training with weights for the shoulder muscles (e.g. trapezius, deltoid and rhomboids) has been shown to be effective in reversing these changes and bringing improvement.