What should you do if your muscles are stiff and tight?
People complain that their neck, back, knees, or wherever else feel “stiff” or “tight.” You normally stretch those tight structures. After all, stretching is what you do when something is tight, and it also feels good and improves symptoms in the short term. But, no matter how much they stretched, those symptoms would return. What was the problem with the stretches? Because the patient was never really tight in the first place!
Consider muscles to be “on” or “off,” not “tight” or “loose.”
There are numerous people who are extremely flexible – even – but still complained of tightness.
So, if their muscles weren’t tight, what was causing the constant tightness?
To understand what was going on, we must first understand how muscles work.
- Muscles are turned “on” or “off” through chemical contact with the nerve synapse to which they are attached. The greater the strength of this contact, the more the muscle contracts.
- Some muscles, known as postural muscles, are constantly contracted in order for your body to maintain particular positions. Then there are the dynamic muscles, such as your hamstring, which generate power but only for a short period of time.
- When a dynamic muscle is kept “on” for an extended period of time, it might become fatigued.
- for example, Sitting at your computer with a mouse, will not tire you out instantly, but if you do it for hours, the muscles in your shoulder, upper back, and neck will become worn out, resulting in a tight sensation.
- Stretching may temporarily relieve symptoms because stressed muscles are given a rest. But stretching will not prevent the symptoms from returning because muscle tightness isn’t the issue in the first place.
- This is not to imply that muscles cannot be both tight and relaxed. Muscle tightness can be a concern in specific situations. A footballer with tight hamstrings will be unable to achieve a full range of motion on a kick.
What more can you do if stretching doesn’t work?
Let’s return to the example of your shoulder, upper back, and neck feeling tense after a few hours of mouse use. Although using a mouse is not difficult, it will eventually create muscle fatigue, resulting in a sense of tightness.
However, by strengthening the muscles involved, these tiny tasks that would normally tire them out become unimportant because you have increased their endurance and strength capacity, which means the muscle is no longer overworking when executing the previously difficult action.
I’ve seen people who were previously tight and stiff have almost total improvement from their problems following some targeted strength exercises.
So, if you’re always feeling “stiff” or “tight,” it’s time to get stronger rather than stretch!
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