In this video I’m going to talk about why do my muscles feel tight and what to do about it. Hi, and welcome back to Physiotutors. So why do muscles feel tight? And what does it actually mean?
Is tightness the same as muscle shortening? Is it actually muscle hardening, or is it just a subjective feeling that is unpleasant? To answer the first statement, I would like to give you an example So I feel absolutely no tightness in my hamstrings but when I bend forward I cannot even touch the ground so I have pretty short hamstrings and a decreased range of motion but no tightness. At the same time we see a lot of patients that have tight upper traps but yet, they have absolutely normal length and even long traps, so the first statement is actually not true. Furthermore tightness is also not the same as actual tension in the tissue. A research done by Andersen et al. in the year 2010 Confirmed that increased trapezius pain sensitivity is not associated with increased tissue hardness So believe it or not It’s impossible to palpate stiffness or to measure it with an algometer The researchers in this article even found that the painful spots are actually softer You can find the link to this article in the description down below so statement 2 is also not true. So that leaves us with statement 3 and this is the tightness is actually only an unpleasant subjective feeling. So why do we experience stiffness then? a lot of times we experience tightness when we have to remain in certain postures for a long time, so picture a longer car ride or if you are sitting behind your laptop for the whole day and this situation leads to impaired blood flow especially to the nerves in the affected area and this creates an ischemic situation which is signaling to our brain that we have to move again and to assume a new posture if we look at chronic stiffness however some might argue that for example the upper traps are chronically overloaded simply because they are weak Most probably other factors play a role as well like general health state stress diet sleep or the emotional state which all play a role in other chronic conditions In this case the driver of our pain is not only coming from actual mechanical nociception but rather from peripheral or central sensitization to the need of more blood flow So with all this information in mind it becomes clear, why stretching is not a good option although it can have a short-term analgesic and relaxing effect but if a muscle is not short and tightness is increased sensitivity it just doesn’t make sense to lengthen it even more So what about soft tissue work like Foam rolling? We have learned from research that it is physically impossible to break down adhesions in our tissues with a foam roller or mobility blade Dr. Andreo Spina explains the reasons for that in a nice little video for which we will post a link down below in the description What soft tissue work can do however is to inhibit nociception at the dorsal horn. But again this is only generating a temporal effect The problem at the same time is that these treatments also create nociception Because they are very unpleasant which increases the sensitivity again So you will have to find a good balance and at the end you will also only have a temporary effect. How about changing posture? one thing is to be more aware about your posture and mainly about remaining in a certain posture for too long and to change it more frequently This helps in cases where tightness is related to actual mechanical nocieption However, there is no robust evidence that a bad posture itself is the reason for pain or problems So just remember your best posture is always your next posture At last we have exercise and resistance training while most people relate strength training with becoming tighter This is only true for a short period of time during the workout or up to one or three days later however in the long run resistance training can even lead to an increase of flexibility Think of exercises where you need to generate strength eccentrically and in end range positions like in the romanian deadlift for example the muscle will actually adapt and lengthen More important in our case however is that the resistance training creates local adaptions in the muscle Which makes them less likely to suffer metabolic distress and to get overloaded On top of that exercise has an analgesic effect and can reduce inflammation which in turn can reduce the nervous system sensibility All right, so to sum it up muscle tightness is not so much a physical condition, but rather sensitivity that comes from inflammation The only real long-term solutions that we have is to change our posture more regularly and to perform resistance training This was the end of our video And I hope I could answer the question why do muscles become tight sufficiently if I didn’t and you still have any questions just drop a comment down below and if you want to know how to test the strength of your trapezius muscles make sure to watch our video on trapezius muscle strength testing If you want to know more about us and see more content check us out on various social media or on physiotutors.com this was Kai. I’ll see you in the next video. Bye