Muscle tension throughout the body is one of the most common health problems today. According to a survey from 2006, one-third of all workers in the European Union suffered from tense muscles.
You sit more, exercise less, strain our necks by looking at our smartphones, and put one-sided pressure on our shoulders by working at the computer.
Tense muscles are not only painful, but they can also lead to severe injuries and limited mobility.
This article will explain which symptoms you need to watch out for and why muscle tightness can harm you. Afterward, we will show you how to loosen tight muscles and prevent muscle tightness in the first place.
Jump ahead to any of the sections below:
- Symptoms of Muscle Tension
- Why Tense Muscles Damage Your Body
- 7 Tips and Exercises on How to Relax Muscles
- How to Prevent Muscle Tension
Symptoms of Muscle Tension
Muscle tension is unpleasant and painful. Problematic areas are often the back, shoulders, jaws, thighs, and calves.
The causes for muscle tightness are numerous, such as:
- Lack of exercise.
- Incorrect loads (too much, too little, or too one-sided load).
- Poor posture.
- Malpositions of the feet.
- Unpracticed movements, like lifting too heavy.
- Magnesium deficiency.
Muscle tension occurs when a muscle or group of muscles contracts. Your muscles work in such a way that they tense up to prevent injuries. This is very useful during sports. However, it’s also triggered when you are under great stress.
In short, the definition of muscle tension is:
Muscle tensions are involuntary and long-lasting contractions of your muscles.
The longer the tension continues, the higher the risk of muscle stiffness. No matter what body type you belong to.
You can tell from these symptoms whether you have muscle tension:
- Limited mobility.
- Neck Pain.
- Pain in the lower back or lumbar spine.
- Pain in the jaw.
- Noticeably hardened muscles.
- Muscles sensitive to pressure.
Why Tense Muscles Damage Your Body
Constant pain, limitations in mobility, permanent incorrect posture – if not appropriately treated, muscle tensions considerably reduce life quality. Especially when it becomes chronic.
There are so-called nociceptors almost everywhere in your body. Nociceptors are the ends of a nerve fiber. They react to external stimuli such as pain or heat and transmit them to your central nervous system.
Their sensitivity increases when muscles are tense or hardened. This increases your pain perception.
Muscle tightness also affects your fasciae. Fascia is the connective tissue that surrounds all bones, muscles, and organs. They support your muscles and determine how flexible they are.
If fascia hardens due to muscle tension, they are damaged and can become sticky. In the long run, this might even weaken your immune system. If you want to learn more about fascia, take a look at our detailed guide.
Increased muscle tension throughout the body can become chronic in the worst case. If this happens, your muscles won’t relax anymore in the way they used to, which is painful and acutely restricts your mobility.
7 Tips and Exercises on How to Relax Muscles
There are many ways to relieve muscle tension. Most of them are natural and will allow you to avoid taking drugs and medication for muscle tension. On top of that, regular exercises are more effective in the long run.
This resulted from a study conducted in 2012. The study divided 272 people with neck pain into three groups: One group took medication, the other practiced a prescribed sports program. The third group underwent spinal manipulative therapy (SMT).
Throughout the period of the study, SMT and active exercises were more effective against neck tension than drugs.
Tip 1 on How to Loosen Tight Muscles: Progressive Muscle Relaxation (Jacobson)
This method relieves muscle tension by specifically tensing particular muscle groups. You activate and relax all muscle groups in your body according to the same principle:
Tense – hold tension – release – feel.
You concentrate on the respective muscles and tense them noticeably (but not in such a way that it becomes painful). Hold the tension for 7 – 10 seconds and then release. Before you move on to the next muscle group, focus on how your muscles and feel them for about 30 seconds.
With Jacobson’s progressive muscle relaxation, you can relax and treat all problem areas within your body.
Tip 2 on How to Loosen Tight Muscles: Qigong
Qigong is a mindfulness exercise that combines relaxing movements and conscious breathing.
It activates the various muscle groups in the body, stretches muscles and joints, and releases tension. Your body is circulated better and reaches a state of relaxation. This strengthens your muscles and gives them back their flexibility. Qigong is also ideal for reducing stress.
In this article, we have put together suitable Qigong exercises for you. Most of them are ideal for relieving muscle tension.
Tip 3 on How to Loosen Tight Muscles: Yoga
Like Qigong, Yoga combines physical activity and mental relaxation. It makes you more balanced, happier and clears your mind. It also stretches your body, strengthens it, and makes it more flexible.
The relaxing Yoga exercises are ideal for loosening muscles and relieving stress. The most suitable poses are gentle ones like Shavasana (the “corpse pose”), Bhujangasana (the “Korba”), or sitting twisting postures.
You can find simple Yoga exercises against muscle tension here.
Tip 4 on How to Loosen Tight Muscles: Heat
Heat immediately relieves muscle tension as it promotes blood circulation. This is proven to loosen muscles and relieve muscle tension.
Heat salves and home remedies such as a hot water bottle are an immediate help against muscle tension in the back or chest.
A sauna or hot bath also works because they raise your body temperature and have a relaxing effect. To increase the effect even more, you can stretch beforehand.
Important: Don’t forget to drink enough water.
Tip 5 on How to Loosen Tight Muscles: Acupuncture and Acupressure
These two methods originate from traditional Chinese medicine. Your body’s so-called pressure points are stimulated from the outside to let the “energy” flow in your body again. This improves the blood supply to your body.
Each pressure point corresponds to a specific muscle or muscle group.
In acupuncture, acupuncture needles’ targeted insertion on the tense area relieves pain and loosens blocked, tight muscles.
Acupressure has a similar effect: pressure massages are used to release all kinds of discomfort and tension. It helps with headaches, exhaustion, and sleep disorders.
Acupressure and acupuncture are suitable for relieving irregular muscle tension. They should not be used when the muscle tension is chronic.
Tip 6 on How to Loosen Tight Muscles: Magnesium
Magnesium is a simple household remedy that relieves muscle tension and can help with unpleasant muscle cramps.
Take magnesium as a dietary supplement and expand your diet with magnesium-containing foods such as broccoli, spinach, nuts, legumes, and fish.
Taking magnesium and zinc before exercise can even prevent sore muscles and other tensions.
If you suffer from chronic muscle tension, talk to a doctor immediately.
Tip 7 on How to Loosen Tight Muscles: Cold Shower
Cold showers are not very popular, but they are very effective and have many advantages for your health.
Already 10 – 20 seconds under cold water stimulate your blood circulation and your organs’ oxygen supply. This makes you more alert and helps against pain.
A cold shower may not prevent tension, but it can give you quick relief from tense muscles. It might not be a permanent solution for muscle tension, but it’s a healthy habit you should try.
How to Prevent Muscle Tension
To prevent muscle tension in the first place, here are a few methods that will help you do so. You can integrate all measures easily into your everyday life.
Tip 1 on How to Prevent Muscle Tension: Physical Activity
As simple as it may sound: Exercise is one of the best methods to prevent muscle tension. You don’t necessarily have to exercise strenuously. Instead, make sure you get regular exercise, always a little bit at a time. Just make sure that your body doesn’t stay in the same position for hours, and you will easily prevent muscle tension.
Here are a few examples:
- Go for a walk every morning or evening.
- Climb stairs instead of taking the elevator.
- Ride your bike to work instead of taking the train.
- Stretch yourself at work.
- Get up from your desk to take a few steps.
Get creative and find ways to incorporate as much physical activity as possible into your routines and everyday life.
Tip 2 on How to Prevent Muscle Tension: Warming up and Stretching
If you warm up and stretch intensively before exercise, you make sure that you protect your body from injuries. This also includes muscle tension. You should also stretch again after training.
Even if you don’t exercise, you can do some stretching exercises every morning after getting up to loosen tense muscles a little. When stretching, however, it’s important that you don’t overstep the limits of your body.
Tip 3 on How to Prevent Muscle Tension: Rest
As mentioned above, stress is also a factor that can lead to muscle tightness. Therefore, you should take regular breaks. These breaks can be physical but also mental.
Take regular breaks from stress, pay attention to your sleep quality, and meditate regularly to counteract mental stress in the long term.
You should also pay attention to physical rest. After a strenuous sports routine, you should give your body a day off to regenerate. Massages can also help.
Methods such as Yoga and massages help you quickly and easily relieve acute muscle tension in the neck, back, and shoulders.
Sufficient exercise and regular breaks are still the best way to become permanently free of tension and regain mobility and life quality.
If you want to learn more about Yoga and Qigong or how to reduce stress through mindfulness, you will find many articles on Mindmonia. Subscribe to our free newsletter to stay tuned.
This article should not and cannot replace a visit to the doctor. If you have chronic pain, please consult a doctor immediately.
Thank you for reading.