Muscles are TIGHT for a REASON

Tight muscles are not only annoying and painful but when it stops you from your exercise program it’s the worst. Our bodies are made to move and that is one reason why exercises feel so good. Here is a quick question for you…why do muscles get tight? Let me give you a few scenarios first:


1)   You are sitting in the brutal I-5 traffic and all you see are red lights ahead of you. All of a sudden, “ boom” the driver behind you tags your bumper. Since F=MA, you are absorbing the Newtons that the texting driver hits you with. Your head goes forward then hits the headrest. Your body’s natural reaction to a threat to your head and neck is to become TIGHT.

2)   You’re an overall solid runner but you need to relearn how to fire your glute muscles. To achieve proper extension of your body and friction off the ground, your lower back and hamstrings try to do the job of your glutes. Your low back and hamstrings are TIGHT…weird.

3)   It is still early in the year and 90% of people have “losing weight” on their New Year’s Resolution including you.  You decide to get a good start by running 3 miles, doing a couple push-ups and sit-ups, then end the day with a yoga class. In about 24-72 hours, DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) sets in and you are TIGHT.

4)   To earn your paycheck, you sit down working in front of your computer 50 hours a week. Your keystrokes average 90 words/minute and you’re “mousing” away like crazy. After a few months, you have TIGHT pecs, subscapularis, hip flexors, and hamstrings. Can you guess why?

Protection, compensation, fatigue, and sustained positions are the reasons why muscles get TIGHT. I can give different scenarios for days but here is my point. Just because you have a TIGHT muscle, massage, Graston, Active Release Technique (ART), and foam rolling is not always the solution. Yes it does feel good afterwards, but are you doing more harm then good? Can your athletic performance be compromised and putting yourself in a higher risk situation? Are you destabilizing joints by loosening up the muscles just like clipping off steel cables off a bridge?

Scenarios #3 and #4 (fatigue and sustained positions) are mostly likely to be safe for some soft tissue work. Scenario #1 (protection) would be safe as long as there are no red flags waving back and forth like fractures or any disc suspicions.  Examples like scenario #2, ITB syndrome, and taut bilateral hip adductors (compensation) should be combined with physical therapy and corrective exercises.

If you have any questions about your TIGHT muscles, go to your trusted health practitioner. Movement is all about minimizing risk!