Why Your Muscles Are 'Tight' and
How Massage Therapy Can Help
By: Janis Jenkinson, RMT
When people come to me with muscular discomfort, they'll often describe it as
feeling "tight" or "stiff".
Our muscles become less flexible when their ability to easily contract and relax
during movement is decreased. When we use our muscles, blood is pumped through
them. This increases the pressure within the muscles and causes a normal increase
in muscular tone. However, muscular overuse or prolonged muscle activity can lead
to shortening of the muscles that causes an undesirable and uncomfortable
sustained increase in tone after activity has stopped.(1) (Muscle activity is not
just exercise! Your muscles are working to hold your posture as you sit and read
this!) There can be a reduced flow of blood through shortened muscles which means
less oxygen to muscle tissue and less elimination of toxins. Shortened muscles will
give you that "tight" feeling because shortened muscles are less flexible - and
they are less flexible because their ability to easily contract and relax is reduced
due to the accumulation of toxins caused by lack of blood flow.
Decreased flexibility makes you prone to injury and strain (pulled muscle) when
activity requires you to move and have flexible muscles. Prevention of injury and
further discomfort is a great reason to seek massage therapy services, but also
to get rid of the discomfort that is already there and to not live with nagging
stiff muscles that can be annoying and distracting.
Massage therapy can alleviate that "tight" feeling by treating the cause and
stretching and elongating your shortened muscles and increasing circulation, helping
your body to help heal itself.
1. Lederman, Eyal. Fundamentals of Manual Therapy. Toronto: Churchill Livingstone, 1997.