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Understanding Muscle Tightness

Written by Hamish Hall, Exercise Physiologist at Sylvania. Article from January 2017.

 

Why do muscles become tight?

muscle tightness

Muscles can become tight through repetitive movements, or a sedentary lifestyle, leading to local tissue dehydration and altered neuromuscular function. The central nervous system increases muscle tone due to a perceived need for protection. An increase in muscle tone causes the body to deposit more collagen around the myofascia, which can further increase muscle tightness. Understanding the origin of the tightness will determine the treatment method needed.

Stretching vs Foam Rolling

Depending on whether you have tightness through a heightened neuromuscular facilitation or through build of adhesions around the myofascia will determine whether stretching or foam rolling is necessary. Neuromuscular facilitation can be alleviated through a technique called PNF stretching. This involves a number of techniques that allow for reciprocal inhibition to occur, which is a muscular relaxation. However muscular tightness due to poor myofascia function can be alleviated through foam rolling. Two studies published in 2013 showed that short bouts of foam rolling were effective in improving joint range of motion for the quadriceps and gluteal muscles (MacDonald et al 2013 & Sullivan et al 2013). Research also shows that stretching after an intense workout has no effect in decreasing the delayed onset of muscle soreness, however MacDonald et al (2014) found that 20 minutes of foam rolling after an intense lower body workout, decreased post exercise muscle soreness.

Do you have Trigger Points?

Trigger points can be defined as a discrete, focal and hyperirritable spot in a taut band of muscle. These spots are painful upon compression and can produce referred pain, referred tenderness and motor dysfunction. There are several proposed mechanisms to account for the development of trigger points and subsequent pain patterns, yet scientific evidence is lacking. Both acute trauma and repetitive microtrauma may lead to the development of trigger points. Although scientific evidence is lacking, it is known, however, that they can be released through a number of techniques.

Is this Affecting your Activities of Daily Living?

If muscle tightness or trigger points are affecting you and stopping you from doing what you love to do, then book in to see an Accredited Exercise Physiologist at one of our Optimum studios by calling us at (02) 8599 6275. We can not only alleviate the problem, but screen for any incorrect movement patterns or postures that may be causing this.

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