It’s 7pm, you’re relaxing on the couch after a long day, but when you get up to grab some water – ouch! Your shoulders feel stiff and cranky. You aren’t too sure why because you haven’t done an arm or shoulder specific workout recently and you were sitting at your desk all day. So, why are your shoulders giving you such a hard time?
Muscle tension most commonly occurs due to stressful situations, sitting for extended periods of time, repetitive misuse (ex. lifting incorrectly), or something more traumatic like a car accident. Associated pain and tightness will either stay in the one muscle group or can migrate to a neighboring muscle.
Whether you carry muscle tension in your hips, shoulders, mid back, legs, or anywhere else on your body, there is always going to be something you can do to relieve the pain. Sometimes the first thing you try will work, but other times you may need to use a couple tactics.
COMMON SYMPTOMS OF MUSCLE TENSION
- a feeling of tightness or pulling throughout your muscles
- muscle aches, cramps, spasms, or twitches
- Joint soreness – due to tight muscles pulling on ligaments and tendons
- Muscles have an obvious “ball” or are tender to the touch
AT HOME REMEDIES
Static Stretching – Learning how to relax and gently stretch your muscles daily will not only minimize the feelings of stress in your life but also help combat muscle soreness. Holding a static stretch will prevent injury by restoring your muscles to their natural alignment and length.
Work Your Core – Your stability, muscular balance, and movement all rely on the strength of your core muscles. When your core is weak, the surrounding muscles and joints pick up the slack and work overtime to mimic a stable core. This causes joints, that should be mobile, to lock up and become stiff.
Strengthen your core by including both isometric and anti-rotation movements. Try holding a 30-second front plank, followed by a 20-second side plank (each side). Do each exercise 2 – 4 times.
Move Your Joints – Going for a walk, participating in a movement break (ex. 5 Min Hit), or building strong bones and muscles through resistance training are all things that will help to balance your muscles and reduce chronic muscle tension.
Foam Rolling – Known as “the poor man’s massage”, foam rolling is an excellent way to massage trigger points and help release muscle tension. Most gyms have a variety of foam rollers, ranging from soft to hard, and you can even purchase your own to keep at home.
Follow along with part or all of this video to introduce yourself to foam rolling. Keep in mind that some muscles will feel more uncomfortable than others.
Heat Therapy – Applying heat to tight muscles encourages these areas to relax, while alleviating pain through an increase in blood flow, delivering more oxygen and nutrients to the area. You can try heat therapy by running a hot bath or applying a heating pad (wrapped in a towel) to the tight muscle.
Acupressure – Certain muscles (ex. upper back, mid back, glutes) are best addressed by using a tennis or lacrosse ball. To massage the muscles in your shoulders and upper back, find a blank wall or closed door. Place your sports ball on your muscle between your shoulder blade and spine. Apply pressure by leaning into the wall and help the ball to move by bending your knees. No matter what muscle you massage, be careful to not roll on any bone.
Yours in health,