The obvious problems that we would expect to experience with muscle tightness are pain in the muscle and restricted movement. But muscle tension can cause a wide range of problems that might seem to be unrelated. Here are 10 not so obvious problems that it can cause.
Tension headaches are a common symptom of tight back, shoulder and neck muscles.
#2 Sore throat
There are many causes of a sore throat, but one of the less obvious ones is tightness in the sternocleidomastoid (SCM) and scalene muscles. These muscles are at the front of the neck and perform the actions of nodding and bending the head to the side.
Again, while there are many causes of earache, tension in the SCM can be the cause.
#4 Knee pain
Knee pain can be due to problems with the knee joint itself, but is also often due to tightness in the quad muscles. Another common cause is friction from the iliotibial band (ITB). The ITB is a thick tendon that runs along the outside of the leg. Tightness in the muscles that lead into the ITB can cause this friction.
#5 Poor ab tone
Ab tone is closely linked to alignment of the pelvis. If the pelvis sits at rest in a forward tilted position, it’s likely that ab tone will be poor. Pelvic alignment depends on the interaction of many muscles, but tightness in the hip flexors is one factor that causes a forward tilt.
#6 Poor results from sport and fitness training
To perform our best and work our muscles to their full potential, we need good range of movement at all our joints. When muscles are tight and movement is restricted, this impairs sports performance and fitness programs that aim to “tone up” muscles can have disappointing results.
#7 Trapped or pinched nerve
Sometimes tight muscles can put pressure on nerves, causing nerve pain, tingling or numbness.
#8 Balance problems
Tight muscles can alter posture and movement patterns. This changes our centre of gravity, which can make balance more difficult.
Bunions are a deformity in the big toe joint. Although the NHS states that the cause is “not understood”, many podiatrists and physiotherapists believe that altered biomechanics cause them. Tightness in the lower leg muscles can be a factor in this.
#10 Frequent injury
Muscles and tendons get injured when they are overstretched. So it follows that if they are tight, they are more likely to be overstretched and injured. This ends up being a vicious circle, because the injured muscles then lose flexibility.
How to reduce muscle tightness and tension
Massage can help muscles to relax and let go of tension. It can also break down inflexible scar tissue that is restricting muscle. To increase muscle length, however, you need to have a regular stretching program. You should ease into stretches and hold them for at least 30 seconds. It’s best to stretch when your muscles are warm – after a workout is therefore the ideal time.