Young woman suffering from neck pain and backache, stretching the muscles.
Muscle pain and tension are very common among Americans today.
Our day-to-day jobs (for the most part) might not be particularly labor-intensive. That doesn’t mean we’re immune to pain and discomfort, though.
In fact, with nearly 70 percent of Americans sitting all day at work, pain in the lower back, neck, and shoulders is more common than ever.
Do you struggle with muscle tension and pain?
Whether you’re dealing with an acute injury or have experienced chronic tightness and discomfort for years, there are steps you can take to minimize these symptoms and improve your quality of life.
If you’ve been wondering about the most effective ways to relieve tension, keep reading. Listed below are some great tips you ought to try today.
What Causes Muscle Tension?
There are a lot of different issues that can contribute to tension and pain. The following are some of the most common:
Poor circulation and reduced blood flow
Medications like statins
Delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) from intense physical activity
A lack of movement or exercise
Repetitive strain injuries
Performing movements with poor technique
Mental health issues like depression and anxiety
Certain diseases can also cause tension in the muscles. This is a common symptom among those suffering from arthritis, lupus, Lyme disease, and several viral and bacterial infections.
Symptoms of Muscle Tension
If you’re experiencing acute tension, there’s a good chance you know something’s wrong with your muscles. That’s not always the case for chronic tension, though. In fact, some people have been dealing with tension for so long that they don’t even realize it’s a problem for them.
The following are some signs that you might experience chronic tension without knowing it:
Frequent or persistent pain
Headaches or migraines
Experiencing pain when certain areas of the body are touched
Feeling that your muscles are always tight or strained
An inability to move in a normal, pain-free way
Many people compensate to avoid their pain, too. For example, they may avoid certain tasks like reaching above their head or walking long distances.
Risks of Untreated Tension
Sometimes, folks assume that they need not address the root cause of their tension because they’ve worked around it. There’s the problem with that approach, though.
If you don’t treat your tension, it will only get worse. As it worsens, it will affect aspects of your life. You could also increase your risk of developing an injury if you allow your tension to go unchecked.
You might think you’re fixing the issue by avoiding activities that cause pain or by relying on muscle relaxers or anti-inflammatory drugs.
The truth, though, is that you will have to perform those activities at some point. You can’t avoid them forever. Muscle relaxers and painkillers come with a variety of side effects, some of which can have serious health consequences.
If you want to enjoy a higher quality of life, you owe it to yourself to relieve your tension and treat the cause of your pain instead of just covering it up.
How to Relieve Muscle Tension
Chronic tension is something you ought to take seriously. If left untreated, you could develop a lot of issues, from chronic pain and movement problems.
The good news, though, is that there are a lot of things you can do to relieve this tension. The following are some of the most effective techniques you may want to try:
Get a Massage
One of the best things you can do if you want to minimize tension and experience some relief is to get a massage. Massage works wonders for loosening up tight muscles and helping you feel more relaxed and at ease.
Many massages can be helpful, but many people like Swedish or deep tissue massage when they’re experiencing a lot of tension.
Massage can also help those dealing with a lot of stress or mental health issues like depression and anxiety. By managing these issues in a more effective way, you can reduce the amount of tension you’re carrying in your body.
Acupuncture involves the insertion of very small, thin needles into specific points throughout the body.
The theory behind acupuncture is that when these needles are inserted, they help to clear energy blockages. When energy can flow through your body uninterrupted, you’re less likely to experience pain and relaxation.
Many people swear by acupuncture for relaxation, stress relief, and pain management.
There’s not a lot of robust scientific evidence backing it up, but it also does not appear to have any serious side effects associated with it. It’s worth a try, especially if you’re looking for a natural pain management solution.
Take Up Yoga
Working on your flexibility and ability to move your joints through a full range of motion can help you to address muscle soreness and recover more quickly.
Stretching and practicing yoga regularly can also help you loosen up your muscles and shake things out if you sit for long periods of time during the day.
If you’re brand new to yoga, start with a class geared toward beginners.
Even if you’re more experienced, try to stick with gentler classes, such as yin yoga. This will help you stretch out and experience the relaxation benefits without causing you to feel more sore and tense the next day.
Improve Your Diet
Did you know that your diet can play a role in muscle tension, too?
If you have chronically tight muscles, it could be because you’re eating a lot of foods that trigger inflammation and make your tension worse.
Make sure you’re eating lots of whole, unprocessed foods that reduce inflammation. This includes fruit, vegetables, high-quality protein sources, fatty fish, and healthy fats like olive oil and avocados.
Make sure you’re getting enough calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D, too.
Start Foam Rolling
Foam rolling does a great job of relieving pain in specific areas throughout the body.
It’s important to note, though, that foam rolling does not actually break up scar tissue or muscle adhesions, as many people claim it does. It takes a lot of pressure (more than you could exert yourself) to break up these tissues. That doesn’t mean foam rolling doesn’t have its merits, though.
Foam rolling works by stimulating the receptors in your nervous system. This, in turn, helps to send a different signal to the brain and create a distraction from the pain you’re feeling.
If you can send a louder signal by applying pressure with these foam rollers or other SMR (self-myofascial release) devices, you can overpower the pain signal and reduce tightness and tension.
Preventing Muscle Tension
It’s important to treat tension before it gets worse. You also should take steps to prevent it from coming back, too. Here are some steps you can take to minimize soreness and tension in the future:
Often, a sedentary lifestyle is a trigger for chronic pain and tension. Make sure you’re exercising, stretching, and working on your mobility on a regular basis. This will help you minimize inflammation, strengthen your muscles and joints, and reduce your risk of developing pain or injuries in the future.
Assess Your Technique
No matter what kind of activities you’re performing, make sure you learn how to perform them in the correct way.
If you have to lift boxes at work, learn to lift them in a way that doesn’t put your back and other joints at risk.
Work with a personal trainer to learn how to lift weights in the safest way possible.
Make sure you’re sitting in an ergonomic position at your desk so you don’t increase your risk of repetitive strain injuries as well.
The sooner you learn these things, the better off you’ll be.
Take Regular Breaks
It’s important to take breaks from activities that are likely to cause muscle tension and soreness.
For example, stand up from your desk at least once every hour to shake out your muscles. You should also allow yourself to have rest days from the gym so you’re not overtaxing your body.
Unmanaged chronic stress can wreak havoc on your physical health as well as your mental health.
Take steps to manage your stress (through meditation, yoga, therapy, journaling, etc.) so it doesn’t continue contributing to your chronic pain and tension.
Prioritize Your Health
If you have health problems that are causing or contributing to your pain, be sure to address these, too. See your doctor on a regular basis and get to the bottom of your symptoms so you can begin to heal.
Say Ta-Ta to Tension Today
If you’re struggling with muscle tension, you’re not alone.
Lots of people deal with this kind of tension (both acute and chronic) on a regular basis. You don’t have to suffer in silence, though.
Keep these tension-relieving techniques in mind so you can minimize your discomfort, improve your range of motion, and prevent injuries and other issues from popping up in the future.
Do you want to learn more about how you can feel your best and reduce pain?
If so, be sure to read some of the other pain management articles on our site today for more tips and tricks to try.