What’s the Deal With Your Tight Muscles?

What’s the deal with your tight muscles? What is a tight muscle?

‘Tight’ is a pretty imprecise term. Muscle tightness is a subjective feeling and the experience of it can vary from person to person.

Your experience of muscle tightness may have to do with…

  • Soreness during or after exercise

  • Staying in one position for too long

  • Unhelpful stress or tension

  • Overuse injury

  • Autoimmune disease

  • Anxiety disorder

  • Hypermobility syndrome

  • or something else!

The feeling of a muscle being tight may lead you to believe there’s a deficit in your range of motion or that your muscle is ‘too short.’ For most healthy and active folks, that’s not the case.

Sometimes tightness can also be a feeling of weakness. Just because a muscle feels ‘tight’ doesn’t mean it is strong.

When a muscle feels tight, the first response may be to stretch. That might help and it might not. If stretching feels helpful for your tight muscles and you see the improvements you seek, keep on keepin on! However, if you have a sensation of tightness and stretching doesn’t seem to help, might I recommend a two-step approach?

When I have a muscle that feels tight, my first step is to get some pressure on the muscle which causes it to deform. I’m talking about a therapy ball or a dowel or a yoga block. While holding that pressure, I might try moving the associated joints all while taking slow deep breaths that help calm the nervous system and bring deeper awareness to the specific area of the body. After doing this kind of a ‘release,’ I will try to use the muscle(s) that feel tight. Often times that’s through a mobility exercise that actively takes the joint through its range of motion. I say actively to indicate that I am using my own muscular control to move my body as opposed to using a prop (like a yoga strap) to passively move into a position and hold it.

So for example, I’m spending a lot of time sitting while writing this blog post. I know from experience (because I’m over 30 now) that when I move to stand up my hips are going to feel stiff. So I might place two therapy balls or a foam roller at my hip creases and lie down on my stomach. I might rock my hips from side to side. I might lift one leg at a time. I will take slow deep breaths to calm my nervous system and allow myself to stay present with whatever sensations arise. Then I will do some hip rotations to get the joint moving through it’s range of motion. Maybe I’ll do some bridges, squats, or add some resistance band work. I might take a short stretch if it feels good but my main goal is to get the muscle(s) working.

If this sounds intriguing to you and you’d like help getting a plan in place to address your tight spots, let’s set up a private lesson. Alternately, plan to join my for Mindful Movement + Massage on Saturday November 17th. Class size is limited so I recommend signing up in advance.

What helps you with your sore muscles? Do you like using a heating pad or a pain cream? What movements help you feel better?