Muscle tension is an incredibly common problem that the vast majority of people will experience at some point in their lifetimes. It’s so common, in fact, that most of us assume tight muscles are just a part of life and that there’s relatively little we can do to find lasting improvement. While it’s normal to experience occasional tightness in response to things like travel or high-intensity workouts, chronically tense muscles may be a sign that something else needs our attention. Read on to learn more about some potential causes of chronic muscle tension and what to do about it.
Causes of Chronic Tension
Stress and Anxiety: Stress and anxiety trigger the body’s “fight or flight” response, which can cause muscles to tense up in a state of defense. When this clenching becomes chronic, it may lead to the formation of painful trigger points that are difficult to relax and release.
Poor Posture: Sitting at a desk or hunching over screens puts stress on the muscles of the neck, shoulders, and lower back. Like tension caused by anxiety, this stress can result in physical tightness the longer that poor posture is maintained.
Lack of Exercise: Muscles need to move in order to remain strong and flexible as we age. Lack of movement caused by a sedentary lifestyle can cause muscles to become weak and stiff over time, leading to pain and discomfort.
Combating Muscle Tension
Exercise and Stretching: A regular fitness routine that includes a variety of exercises such as yoga and strength training is one of the best ways to relax tense muscles and improve overall flexibility. Stretching may feel uncomfortable in the beginning, but with regular practice, muscles should begin to relax and your range of movement will improve.
Mind-Body Techniques: For anxiety and emotional stress, practices like meditation and deep breathing can help to calm the mind and allow physical tension to melt away in response. Try to incorporate these techniques into your daily routine or whenever you notice yourself starting to tense up.