Why do muscles feel tight?

Tightness is a sensation generated by your nervous system that might indicate muscles are shortened . . . might.

Simply feeling tight does not mean the muscles are actually shortened. Alternatively, when muscles are shortened, or tight, it does not mean you will feel tight.

It can be confusing.

To be clear, “pulling the hamstring” usually means there is both the sensation of tightness and difficulty, or pain, when lengthening the hamstring. That the sensation reflects reality may be the exception to the rule, not the rule.

Three common reasons for feeling “tight” are:

  • Muscle fatigue: This can be from holding a certain posture for a prolonged time - either good posture or poor posture. Either way, keeping a muscle or group of muscles in a certain “hold” for a prolonged time will cause muscle fatigue…and often that is experienced as tightness.

  • Muscle imbalances: There are some muscles that tend to get tight (even if you are not experiencing tightness in those muscles) and this causes other groups of muscles to be overly-stretched. The cumulative result of the imbalances between these muscles, and the joint-ligament segments between these imbalanced muscles, generates the sensation of tightness…or discomfort…or pain.

  • Actual muscles being tight: Tight muscles do not always “feel tight” so whether you feel tight or not does not give an accurate assessment.

Tightness due to muscles actually being tight can occur because:

  • inflammation in a joint or muscle

  • acute injury

  • arthritis

  • muscle spasm

  • response to stress stimulus

  • anticipation of pain

Conditions such as fibromyalgia and myofascial pain are actually pain syndromes. These conditions usually generate tightness (and often pain) scattered throughout the body, but it is not muscle tightness. It is a sensation generated by the nervous system.

The reasons for muscle tightness will influence the manual therapy approach and sometimes it is a combination of many reasons so there needs to be a multi-faceted approach and sometimes, a trial and error approach. Our desire is to help you develop a musculoskeletal health and fitness plan suited to your particular needs.

Kinetic Chain and the Foot

Kinetic Chain and the Foot

Consider the evidence . . .

Consider the evidence . . .