Your Muscles feel “Tight”? Here’s WHY and HOW you can fix that!

Tight hamstrings, tight calves, tight neck, tight back, tight hip flexors, tight upper traps…chances are, if you are here right now it’s because you have probably experienced muscle tightness too in some shape or form before.

And we both know how ANNOYING it can be!

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Maybe you even tried a bunch of “quick fixes”, such as smashing those tight muscles with a foam roller, a massage gun or having someone dig their elbow into your muscles…but nothing has really worked: your muscles still feel tight.

Well, then: let’s find out together why that might be so!

(Now you can either choose to keep reading OR check out the video I’ve uploaded on my YouTube channel on this topic 👉🏻 CLICK HERE for the video)

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WHY do our muscles feel tight?

Despite what you might think, a muscle that feels tight, might NOT in fact be tight (…more about this later on).

Now, the main reasons why we might perceive a muscle as “tight” is because of:

1️⃣ Ischemia: this is the phenomenon when our muscles are not receiving enough oxygen, because blood flow is being somehow disrupted; this usually happens when we keep the same static posture for too long. For example, after we have been sitting at our desk for several hours in a row, without taking some small breaks to move a little, at the end of the day we might experience some discomfort and tightness in our neck or low back: that’s because of ischemia.


2️⃣ Sensitization: when our general health is not great, because of unbalanced diet, poor sleeping patterns or high stress levels, our nervous system (which is very susceptible) becomes even more sensitive to pain and discomfort; this can easily makes us perceive our muscles as “tight”, even though they are not. For example, think about when you have a tons of deadlines at work VS when you are super relaxed on holiday: I bet you don’t experience as much muscle tightness when you are on holiday compared to the stressful scenario at work. Am I right? 😉

3️⃣ Overload: if we exaggerate with the load we put on our muscles compared to what they can currently handle, they tense up as a protective mechanism (to be precise, our nervous system 🧠 does that). For example, think about that time you tried to set a new PR at the gym: I bet afterwards your muscles felt pretty tight, right?

Ok, so now that we know why our muscles feel tight sometimes, let’s find out what we can we do to relieve muscle tightness for good!

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HOW can we “fix” Muscle Tightness?

Let’s first start with what will NOT help you get rid of muscle tightness for good:

Stretching: the reason why stretching is NOT the solution it’s because usually tight muscles are NOT truly shortened, but actually lengthened, so lengthening them even more makes no sense at all!!

Soft Tissue work (a.k.a. Foam Rolling, Massage, Massage Guns, etc…): smashing your muscles hoping to “release” them doesn’t work because that does NOT cause any structural changes on your muscles, and the feeling of “release” that you might experience at first don’t last more than a few minutes anyway. #pointless

Here’s what DOES work and WILL truly help you “fix” those tight muscles:

Change position OFTEN: as we saw, if we keep the same position for too long, that causes ischemia, which in turn causes pain and tightness. The solution? Easy! Take small, frequent breaks throughout the day and move a little (PRO TIP: follow my “30/30 rule” —> move 30 seconds every 30 minutes).

Take care of your Health: as discussed above, our diet, quality of sleep and stress levels can hugely impact our overall health; when we are not taking good care of our health, our nervous system becomes hyper-sensitive and can easily makes us perceive our muscles as tight, even though they are not. So by making sure to eat a nutritious diet, sleep well, exercises regularly and lower our stress levels, we can get rid of that annoying muscle tightness too.

Strengthen your Muscles: as previously explained, when we excessively load our muscles beyond what they can handle, our nervous system might easily tense them up in order to protect us from possible damage. Therefore, by strengthening our muscles, we can increase their capacity to handle a specific load, so they will not get tight that easily anymore!

There you have it!
Now you know why your muscles feel constantly tight, and how you can “fix” it! ✌🏻

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A quick note before you go…

Most of the time, muscles that feel tight are NOT truly “shortened”; sometimes, though, they might: luckily, there are specific test to identify wether or not that is the case. If you are interested in learning more about those special tests, let me know in the comments: I’d be more than happy to make a blog post about it!

I hope you enjoyed this post!

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Thanks for Reading!

-Elisabetta Brigo

Physiotherapist

The Physio Formula

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2 Comments

  1. Great article! You wrote about everything I am going through. I am seeing a physiotherapist so I can get stronger. My so called tight muscles (neck and back) have led to massive headaches. Poor posture worsened by my job has left me a hot mess. I would love to hear more!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Nicole! Thanks for your feedback! It’s great that you are seeing a physiotherapist who is helping you getting better and stronger!
    Headaches can often stem from tight muscles in your neck: that’s a very common issue, especially in students or people who work many hours at their desk.
    I have plenty of articles regarding posture and common issues related to having a desk job: feel free to scroll back on my blog! 😊

    Like

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