Mayo Clinic Q&A: sleep and blood pressure; myofascial releas therapy

EXPLORING THE SLEEP-BLOOD PRESSURE CONNECTION

I‘ve heard that having sleep apnea can increase your blood pressure. What if you don‘t sleep well but don‘t have sleep apnea. Does that raise your blood pressure, too?

Research suggests that sleeping five hours or less a night can, over time, increase your risk of developing — or worsening — high blood pressure. Sleeping between five and six hours a night also may increase high blood pressure risk. This can occur with or without obstructive sleep apnea, a sleep disorder in which you repeatedly stop and start breathing during sleep.

In one Mayo research study, study participants were restricted to four hours of sleep each night for nine nights. The same participants got nine hours of sleep each night during a second study visit. When they slept four hours, study participants had an average systolic blood pressure reading (top number) during the night that was 10 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) higher than during the nine-hour sleep phase. In addition, the usual blood pressure dip that occurs at night wasn‘t as pronounced when they were sleep deprived.

It‘s not fully understood why this occurs, but it‘s thought that sleep helps regulate stress hormones and helps your nervous system to remain healthy. Over time, lack of sleep could hurt your body‘s ability to regulate stress hormones, leading to high blood pressure.

Nearly everyone has a bad night or two of sleep now and then, but if you‘re consistently getting less than six hours of sleep, talk to your doctor about ways to improve your rest. Not only is poor sleep linked to elevated blood pressure, it also can have a big impact on your enjoyment of life and has been associated with other health risks, such as obesity, diabetes, depression, risk of accidents or falls, and even premature death.

UNDERSTANDING MYOFASCIAL RELEASE THERAPY

What can you tell me about myofascial release therapy? Is it an effective treatment for muscle pain or tension?

Myofascial release often is used in physical therapy and massage practices. The technique focuses on pain believed to arise from myofascial tissues, the body‘s muscle (myo) and the tough connective tissue (fascial) that wrap, connect and support your muscles. The goal is to treat pain that originates in trigger points, which are related to stiff, anchored areas within the muscles or connective tissues.

During myofascial release therapy, the therapist locates myofascial areas that feel stiff and fixed instead of elastic and movable under light manual pressure. These areas, though not always near what feels like the source of pain, are thought to restrict muscle and joint movements because of the way muscles and fascial tissues are interconnected throughout the body.

The slow, sustained manual pressure used in myofascial release therapy applies biomechanical force to stretch the tight tissue. It is also believed to stimulate nerve messages to the brain and central nervous system. This in turn leads the brain to send messages back that result in tissue relaxation. Pressure is applied until the tightness melts away. This often reduces the pain at the tender sites, loosens restricted movement and restores musculoskeletal symmetry.

There‘s some evidence that myofascial release therapy may help with low back pain, fibromyalgia, heel pain, headache, hamstring tightness and other types of pain — when used with established therapies

If you have osteoporosis of the spine or another type of bone disease that makes you vulnerable to fracture, ask your doctor or a therapist who has training in the technique whether it‘s safe for you.