Almost everyone has experienced tight muscles at one time or another. They can be painful, lead to injury, limit movement and decrease performance. Preventing and managing tight muscles is the key to avoiding injuries. There are a few common reasons and times that muscles can tighten up. The most frequent times when muscle tightness can occur are during periods of prolonged inactivity, during exercise, and after exercise.
In this day of age, so many people sit all day at work and are inactive day after day week after week. These prolonged periods of inactivity can cause muscles to tighten up do to their restricted movement. We see this most commonly in the psoas or hip flexors. Since the hips are bent when seated, this puts your hip flexors in a shorted or tight position. In contrast, you gluts are now put in a lengthened position. If you are sitting down and working on a computer then most likely your chest muscles will be tight as well and in contrast now your back muscles are in a lengthened position.
Over the course of time, this most likely will result in muscle imbalances. Your muscles that are in the shorted position day in and day out will become “tight” and the muscles are are lengthened day in and day out will become weak. Overtime, this will give you poor posture. Forward rounded shoulders and underdeveloped glutes will be a result of this imbalance.
Do not worry though, There is a solution to everything that I mentioned above. It is important to maintain proper posture even while seated. You should also specifically strengthen the muscles that are weak and lengthened and then stretch out the muscles that are tight. We would be able to go over all of this at the office.
During exercise is another time that a muscle can tighten up which most people experience as a cramp. Cramps may occur for many reasons,. Some reasons would be muscle fatigue, low sodium or low potassium. Even if you are not exercising, you may still get muscle cramps. A cramps occurs when the muscle fibers remain shorten or are unable to lengthen due to fatigue or dehydration. If you experience a cramp, do not forcibly stretch the muscle. You are at risk of tearing the muscle or having an injury. Allow the cramp to go away before attempting to stretch. It is important to eat well and be hydrated before a prolonged exercise bout.
Another time that you may get tight muscles is following exercise. A lot of people will experience this tightness as muscle soreness sometimes called DOMS or delayed onset muscle soreness. This usually occurs 24-72 hours after exercise.
With proper exercise, stretching, and nutrition you can help prevent and correct muscle tightness. Doing proper strengthening exercises for the weak muscles and proper stretching for the tight muscles will prevent tightness due to decreased range of motion. To help avoid cramping, proper hydration and nutrition is recommended before exercising.