What is Muscle Tension and How Can I Relieve It?

Do you roll over in the morning and feel parts of your body spasm or ache? Or maybe you walk around all day, going about your everyday life, with chronic pain somewhere? Is the stress of your job weighing on you not just mentally, but physically? All of this can lead to, or be caused by muscle tension. 

Muscle tension is when your muscles stay partially contracted for a period of time, at first causing them to feel stiff and achy, and eventually leading to chronic pain. Muscle tension can be caused by stress, physical activity, or repetitive motion in daily life. If you’ve ever felt any of these common symptoms, you most likely have dealt with some kind of muscle tension in your body.

How do I know?

Most people have experienced chronic muscle tension, whether it is in the form of muscle pain or tension headaches. The three most common causes of muscle tension are:

  1. Stress
  2. Exercise
  3. Repetitive movement or positions

Stress doesn’t just affect your mental health, it can also have a detrimental effect on your physical health. High cortisol and constant pressure on the nervous system can cause tense and tight muscles, when your body locks up to go into fight or flight mode. This can be stress from work, life, and things out of your control like the pandemic. Exercise is the more obvious cause of muscle tension, as you may work in a way that impacts specific groups of muscles. An example of this is someone who lifts heavy weights having back pain from the impact of the exercise. You are directly causing the muscle contraction, and feeling the remaining tension from that. Repetitive movements or positions from work or at home can also cause muscle tension, as you create wear and tear on the same muscle groups, over and over again. This does not allow for the muscle fibers to repair themselves from this action, and can restrict blood flow to the muscles. Overtime, this will lead to muscle tension, chronic pain, and even injury. 

How do I relieve the muscle tension?

Muscle tension can be an incredibly uncomfortable sensation, and can lead to chronic pain if you don’t take care of it. Finding relaxation techniques that will release this muscle tension is important so that it doesn’t progress into a health condition. The best way to relieve muscle tension is through passive assisted stretching. It will give the muscle the time it needs to stop contracting, and let the muscle fibers relax. This will give you the relief you have been searching for. 

Stretches you can do at home to relieve your muscle tension 

Spinal Twist

  1. Begin by lying on your back, with both legs extended straight out, and your arms out in a T. 
  2. Pick your right leg up to a ninety-degree angle, parallel to the ceiling, and place your left hand on your right knee. 
  3. Slowly twist your right leg to the left side of your body, while turning your head to the right. 
  4. Make sure to stop when you feel a light stretch, and ease slowly into a deeper stretch. 
  5. Allow gravity to pull your knee towards the floor, while keeping your right arm and both shoulders on the floor. 
  6. Hold for 15-30 seconds and repeat on the left side. 

Forward Fold

This hamstring stretch has many benefits, including reducing stress. In addition to releasing the hamstrings, it is also a lower back and upper back stretch. 

  1. Begin by standing straight up, with your arms down by your sides.
  2. Start tucking your chin to your chest and rolling down towards the floor.
  3. Reach your arms to the floor and allow the weight of your head to drop.
  4. Stop when you feel a gentle stretch and continue to let gravity pull you down.
  5. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and repeat

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