What Does Muscle Tightness Actually Mean?

Most of us have complained about having “tight muscles” at some stage in our lives. And most of us feel like we need a good massage or stretch to rectify the problem. But, what if your “tight muscle” was actually a sign of something else?

What muscle tightness probably doesn’t mean

  • Short muscles – not all muscles that feel tight are actually short. In fact, it’s quite common to have a feeling of muscle tightness with no reduction in muscle length
  • Tonic or “hard” muscle – when you touch a muscle, sometimes it can feel quite “hard” and sore to touch, but not all of these hard spots in muscles are sign that the muscle is in fact tight. Often, firmer spots in muscles can actually be less painful to touch.

What muscle tightness probably is

  • Just a feeling. Most of the time, our tight muscle feeling is just that, a feeling

Why you “feel” muscle tightness

There are three main reasons you might have the feeling of muscle tightness:

  1. You haven’t moved enough. Holding static postures for long periods of time (like sitting at a desk) can restrict blood flow to muscles contributing to the sensation of tightness
  2. Muscle weakness. A weak muscle is easily overloaded and overload can lead to the sensation of tightness as well
  3. Mental state and general wellbeing (poor sleep, high stress, anxiety, depression, poor general health). This all leads to tissue sensitisation in the central and peripheral nervous systems, increasing the feeling of tightness

What can you do about it?

  • Move! Change postures constantly
  • Look after your body – make sure your diet, sleep, fitness & mental health are at their best
  • Strength exercises to avoid weaknesses

Your physiotherapist can help with all of the above so before you start stretching, seek advice from your Life Ready physiotherapist.

Some words from the author: Thank you to Physiotutors for help writing this article!