Stiff, tight and tense are a few words you may use to describe your muscles if they been inactive for a long time, if you have recently injured them or if you have recently put them through vigorous exercise. Having stiff muscles can increase your risk of physical injury during daily activities, and they might become weaker and stiffer without proper treatment.
Massage therapy manipulates the ligaments, tendons and muscles through various pressing and rubbing techniques. Massage is thought to help directly reduce muscle stiffness but may also indirectly reduce tension by providing stress relief and improving blood flow. You may seek various forms of massage therapy – such as gentle Swedish or the more forceful deep-tissue massage – as your sole treatment from an independent practitioner or as a side treatment to chiropractic physical therapy.
Exercises such as walking and swimming on a regular basis can improve blood flow, and having warm muscles improves their flexibility. Being active can also help you move your muscles through their normal range and keep them from contracting too much. Stretching exercises can be particularly beneficial. Warm muscles are more receptive to stretching and less likely to be injured, so stretch all major groups after warming up for five to 10 minutes or just wait to stretch until after your cardio workout. Incorporate stretching-focused activities such as yoga and tai chi in your weekly exercise routine to loosen up even more.
If your stiff muscles are causing you pain, follow some simple home care methods to reduce it until you treat the underlying stiffness. Heat therapies such as a warm showers and heating pads can temporarily loosen up tight muscles and improve blood flow to affected areas. Cold therapies such as ice packs and cold compresses can help reduce inflammation. You may find that one type of therapy works better than the other, so try both and apply the one that works better for you for 20 minutes a day. If you still feel pain, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug such as ibuprofen can offer some relief. Follow the instructions on the bottle carefully.
Some cases of muscle pain result from underlying conditions that affect the entire body. Infections such as the flu and disorders such as lupus are just two examples of conditions that cause muscle stiffness. Get in touch with your doctor if: stiffness persists for over three days despite your attempts to reduce it, you have any unexplained severe pain, you have any redness or swelling around a tense muscle, you see any bites or rashes on your skin or you have recently started or changed the dose of a medication. Call for emergency help if you are suddenly short of breath, if you have trouble moving any part of your body or if you have a high fever and a very stiff neck.
- Chiropractors.org: Relieving Muscle Tension
- MayoClinic.com: Massage: Get in Touch With Its Many Health Benefits; January 2010
- Go Ask Alice; Head and Muscle Ache from Stress: What Can Be Done?; Health Services at Columbia University; October 1997
- Sports Injury Clinic: Tight Muscles of the Upper Back and Neck
- Sports Injury Clinic: Stretching Exercises
- MedlinePlus: Muscle Aches