Tight Muscles Explained
It’s the end of the week. You’re having a hard time sitting at your desk comfortably. Your low back and hips are aching. Your shoulders and neck feel stiff. You get out of your chair, walk around, and attempt a few stretches. Your body feels stiff and tight! Your last workout was two days ago. Are your muscles still recovering from that fitness class? Did your muscles shorten over the course of the day? Or is there another reason to explain this tightness?
Muscle tightness is common. It’s a feeling that can mean several different physiological processes. Our muscles can feel tight because they have been overworked and need a break. Tightness can also stem from not enough movement. Our muscular system tightens up when we are injured or when we are at risk of injury. Deficiencies in water, electrolytes and certain minerals may also be the reason for that feeling of tightness.
Below we explore five reasons why our muscles may feel tight and what we can do to address the issue.
1. Overuse and Fatigue
Exercise soreness can cause us to feel stiff. Whether you completed a very challenging workout yesterday, or you are on day 14 of consecutive workouts, you may experience delayed onset muscle soreness, also known as DOMS. DOMS occurs when you stress your muscles with exercise, causing micro-tears to the tissues, leading to inflammation. Inflammation is what causes muscle soreness and the feeling of stiffness. That soreness and stiffness can also be a result of fatigue. Your muscles and your body need a break from time to time. That’s where a rest day comes in. Taking a day or two off from your workout schedule will help your muscles relax and recover. Rest days can also make you feel refreshed and stronger for your next workout.
If you’re stuck at a desk all day, your shoulders hunch forward and your back slouches for hours at a time. You may experience constant stiffness in your shoulders, neck, upper back, low back, and hips. This kind of muscle stiffness is due to a lack of physical movement and chronic poor postures. Your muscles are slowly becoming tight and weak, which can make them feel stiff and short. The solution to this is easy. Get moving! Increase the blood and oxygen flow in your body and reduce your stiffness by getting up and moving around. Stretch, walk and take your lunch break away from your desk. Your body will thank you!
3. Injury and Protective Mechanism
Sometimes our muscles are tight because they are protecting an injury or preventing an injury from occurring. Our muscular system protects our joints, our organs, and surrounding tissues. This is a helpful mechanism in response to acute injuries. It isolates the injured area and gives it a chance to heal. That protective mechanism also works when we are at risk of injury. Think about the last time you almost fell. Remember how your body tightened up to allow you to catch yourself or to make the fall a little less intense? That’s your body, in particular, your musculoskeletal system, doing its job.
Dehydration can be the cause of muscle stiffness, more specifically muscle cramping. Exercise-associated muscle cramps can be due to loss of water and electrolytes through sweating which leads to dehydration. If we don’t replenish our bodies with water (and sometimes electrolytes) we may start to feel stiff and sore. Our muscles may start to cramp, telling us that they are thirsty. Before you grab a coffee after your morning workout, finish your bottle of water. Even in cooler weather, dehydration is possible if you don’t drink enough fluids while exercising. Think of how much you sweat when you layer up and hit the cross-country ski trails. Keep your muscles happy and hydrated, all year long!
5. Magnesium Deficiency
Muscle stiffness can also be the result of magnesium deficiency. Magnesium is a mineral involved in over 300 biochemical processes in the body. One of its most important roles is to help maintain proper muscle function. Signs of magnesium deficiency include muscle stiffness as well as chronic headaches and migraines. Studies suggest that approximately 80% of North Americans are deficient in magnesium. When combined with glycinate, magnesium is well-absorbed in the body and therefore more available to our muscles. Talk to your chiropractor about magnesium glycinate supplementation for your muscle stiffness.
To better understand the cause of your muscle tightness, call our clinic and book an appointment with one of our chiropractors or massage therapists. Our team can help you uncover the reason for your muscular tightness and get you on the path to decreased pain and discomfort, improved range of motion and function and overall feeling better.