Why Do Muscles Feel Tight?

March 21, 2019

 

Ever curious as to why those upper traps, hamstrings or low back muscles feel tight? Why doesn’t the relaxed feeling from massages, foam rolling or lacrosse ball smashing last?

 

The goal here is to shed a little light on what's going on with your tight neck, tight back, tight anything really. 

 

This is a really common question we get in the office so here it goes.

 

Common Things We See

When someone comes in with the feeling of tightness there are a few common scenarios we see:

  • There's an actual decrease of the range of motion for said body part

  • The range of motion looks great but the feeling of tightness occurs at the end of the range.

  • Maybe nothing is wrong with range of movement at all but there is just this general sense of tightness or inability to relax.

  • Direct correlation to body position or repetitive movement and said tightness.

  • A very vague sense of discomfort that cannot be confidently described but eventually summed up as tightness or stiffness.

  • A patient states they feel super tight in said area but to us the tissue feels normal (vise versa the tissue feels like a rock and the patient states it feels fine)

 

It’s Complicated

So, as you can see, the feeling of tightness is not a universal sensation nor is there a universal cause. Because there is no direct relationship to the loss of range of motion and the feeling of tightness, muscle length does not seem like a great reason for the feeling of tightness.

 

Here’s what I think is the best explanation:

The duration of tension in a given area causes fatigue and possible lack of blood flow to an area in the tissue. This can cause a high demand metabolically creating “tightness” and low grade pain.

 

How do you get that blood flowing you ask? Movement my friend, the answer is movement. 

Keep in mind, just like pain there are so many factors that can go into this sensation (sleep, stress, previous experiences, social behaviors, etc) so yes your best move would be to see a pro and get some solid guidance. 

 

But if you wanna get after those tight muscles right away, we got a little something for you.

 

Try it Out 

Here is something you can try that may help with that "tight" sensation you are feeling in your low back (in this case, more so with leaning back).

 

 

To Sum Things Up

Your feeling of tightness is not just because of the length of a muscle. This is why stretching alone is hardly ever the best option. (Click here to check out some more options for low back tightness).

 

There are many ways to get rid of your tightness and a comprehensive approach that includes changing movement habits and strength training in full range of motion should always be apart of the game plan. Let us know how we can hep you below!