Why do our muscles feel tight? Does that mean they have somehow shortened when once they were a “regular” length? Does it mean they can’t relax? And what can you do about tight muscles?
Here are some of my thoughts about why our muscles feel tight and what we can do to ease the tension.
Tightness is a sensation. There’s generally no objective measure that can qualify what feels tight. Why? Because what’s “tight” to you may be normal for the next person.
Tightness is a a feeling we experience. And feelings? Well, they are by their very nature subjective and not necessarily an accurate representation of what’s really happening to our muscles when they feel tight.
Consider this … our Central Nervous System (CNS) can increase the tension of our muscles. As a matter of fact, the human body contains more than 650 different muscles in three categories, all under the control of the CNS¹.
Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s take a look at one of the main components a medical professional would observe when addressing tight muscles … range of motion (ROM).
As a pro myself, let me share a common example of muscle tightness and how it relates to ROM.
Many clients will state they have tightness in their hamstrings. I’ll have them stand straight and touch their palms to the floor in a forward bend. Some clients have no difficulty touching the floor while others can barely make it past their knees. Why is there a difference? Because tightness doesn’t relay information about ROM. And it is ROM that suffers when we have tightness; if there is no tightness then there will be a free ROM with no issues.
In other words, the feeling of tightness in an area of your body will not always translate into actual tightness in that same area; it very well may translate into a different area of your body needing to be addressed (which leads us back to the CNS and how your nerves impact muscle tightness). And this begs the question …
Why Are Muscles Tight In Places That Don’t Feel Tight?
Here’s the thing. A feeling of “tightness” is simply that … tightness. So why does it bother us so much? Perhaps because we associate a feeling of pain² with tightness. And pain, my friends, results from the perception of a threat. Needless to say, if you’re being mauled by a lion, your perception of pain would be very different. But for the purposes of tightness, our primitive instinct kicks into gear and the perception of threat is very real. Thus, we feel pain associated with tightness.
But does perception of a threat coincide with what’s going on in reality? Maybe.
In fact, our muscles are designed to handle tightness. They are not designed to withstand lack of blood flow, inadequate rest, or strains. This is where your friendly, neighborhood massage therapist can come to the rescue.
You see, when muscles are experiencing, for example, lack of blood flow, the nerves in that area are also experiencing a lack of blood flow. And nerves do not like to be thirsty³.
This leads, yet again, to the CNS which is always concerned with the health of any of its tissues and will send you an appropriate pain signal to remind you to protect them. Sometimes, this pain signal can be that feeling of tightness. Interesting, huh?
How Do You Correct the Tightness and Pain?
I specialize in a fully-clothed massage referred to as Pain Management. That’s nothing more than a buzz term that people identify with but it can be more accurately referred to as “Neural Reset Therapy.” Within the Scope of Practice for a Massage Therapist, I work to release triggers that initiated the perception of tightness and pain. I focus on the root cause of the tightness and pain and within an hour, the results are pretty astounding.
It’s certainly not like any massage you’ve experienced before.
Want to give it a try? Give me a call to schedule at (225) 784 – 2168.
In His Grace,
1. 10.4 Nervous System Control Of Muscle Tension
2. Evolution Of the Neuromatrix Theory Of Pain. The Prithvi Raj Lecture: Presented At the Third World Congress Of World Institute Of Pain, Barcelona 2004: Ronald Melzack
3. Nerves Need Blood: Vasa Nervorum – Sam Jarman-Ruth Jarvis-Natasha Savoie