How to Relieve Tight Muscles

April 19, 2019

In a previous blog Why Do Muscles Feel Tight, we talked about why your muscles get tight. Now we have a sense of what may be going on in there, we are switching gears find how to relieve tight muscles.

 

Tightness is an interesting phenomenon that is quite different from person to person. One person may actually have a decrease in range of motion, the other may not. One person’s muscle feels like a rope, the other person’s feels like jello. All with the same complaint of “tightness”.

 

So, this muddies the waters a little bit when attempting to find causes, then attacking that cause. To determine or at least get a good idea of this cause, I have to be honest with you, a thorough exam with a practitioner may be your best option.

Here’s why. A solid practitioner will weigh out your goals, your body’s limitations, knowledge of how the body works and will create a realistic plan centered around YOUR goals.

 

This plan should be geared towards guiding you how to do things for yourself to manage this sensation on your own.

 

With all that being said, what I think will be most helpful for you is to go over some of the common treatments, what we think is happening to the body and whether or not it is a viable option to help your tightness.

 

Stretching:

Ahh the good old adage we always heard since PE class “Stretching daily, before and after exercise will prevent injuries”. Well this is false.

An increase in range of motion doesn't mean you're less likely to have an injury. If that were the case, contemporary dancers or contortionists would never be injured, and I KNOW that isn't true. 

 

However this does not mean stretching is useless. It is very useful and necessary to be able to get into positions that you need to be in for the activities you perform on a regular basis. So making sure your body can tolerate that range of motion is important.

 

But let's take a second to talk about what is and what isn't happening to and in your body. What is

 

NOT happening: Your muscle cells are not getting longer when you are stretching (they would literally snap before this happened).

 

What is happening is your muscle tissue is more tolerable to a range of motion due to your brain’s new found trust in the range of motion.

 

Our motto with stretching: If it feels good, do it. If it doesn’t feel good, don’t (Only in very specific circumstances do we say to stay you should avoid stretching altogether, so ask your trusted practitioner if this is safe for you if you are experiencing pain).

 

Foam Roller/Lacrosse Ball:

The gym goer’s best friend! So, these has been a huge fad in the health and fitness industry that has made self-massage much easier and more accessible.

Do realize all of these tricks are short lasting. Here’s why: You are not “breaking adhesions” you are changing the conversation of the muscles and brain to cause a relaxed tone. 


Our tissue is more resilient than we think. And think of it this way if our leg meat broke up when rolling around on a hardened styrofoam cylinder, we would fall apart running, jumping or lifting heavy objects.

 

Seeing as we do not fall apart doing any of those activities, there should be a better explanation. The answer lies in how your body communicated with your brain. 


Deep pressure of the ball or roller causes a massive input to the brain, which usually causes a decrease in the amount of tone in that area (relaxes the muscle). This can be beneficial in a lot of scenarios, just won't last a long time.

 

Our motto on foam rolling: If it feels good, do it. If it doesn’t feel good, don’t. BUT don’t be surprised if it doesn’t last forever.

 

Manual Therapy:

Everyone loves a good massage, myofascial release, joint pop or therapeutic mobilization. This is similar to foam rolling and the lacrosse ball but with a bit more “specificity” in mind.

 

Again, no adhesions being broken up here that’s just not how the body works. If pressure from a hand can do that, we would crumble under the bar when trying to lift weights.

 

This is just done with a bit more of a plan and is easily paired with movement and exercise.

 

Our motto with manual therapy: This is money when paired with a long term movement strategy!

 

Exercise/Movement Drills:

You mean I have to work to create change?! Yes, the answer to this is always yes.

 

Changing the way you exercise and adding some movement drills that are best for you is going to be pivotal if you are looking to change how your body feels.

 

This can be as simple as changing around how you lift weights, adding an active recovery day in your training, breaking up how often you sit by standing every 30-40 min for 1-2 minutes, adding strength training to your regiment.

 

It is all about understanding your health and fitness goals and making your physical activities fun, efficient and effective.

 

Our Motto with Exercise: This is the meat and potatoes of how you are going fix your tightness. Not saying side dishes won’t make your dinner better, but without the main dish you’ll be left still feeling hungry.

 

Here are a few gems that are go-to’s for us in these following certain scenarios:

 

Tightness in the front of the hip OR tightness in your hips during the squat

-Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat (Loaded and Unloaded)