Why do muscles stay persistently tight? Many different treatments are sought after to ‘release’ the muscle but this only gives temporary relief. A question we often fail to ask is ‘Why does this muscle remain tight after being released? What causes it to come back?’ It is import to realize that the brain uses our muscles to move us and to protect us.

Why may a muscle be in ‘protective’ mode?

  • We have an underlying pathology like a disc bulge or nerve involvement
  • We continually put the muscle in a poor position causing it to remain tight
  • We have other lifestyle factors like stress that cause our stress hormones to become elevated and results in the muscle staying tight.

Why would a muscle be tight from movement?

  • We are moving poorly, causing the tight muscle to compensate for poor movement elsewhere. Commonly poor thoracic (mid back) mobility can cause persistently tight upper traps (shoulder muscles)
  • We aren’t using the muscle group enough throughout the day causing it to become weak (often the case with tight hip flexors).
  • We have movement asymmetries. Commonly having limited motion on one side of the body can cause compensations to occur on the other side (this could be left to right or front to back)

The key is to assess and understand why the muscle remains tight, what is it protecting? If you have to use a trigger point ball/stretch/release the muscle all the time you may be using the wrong tool for the job. Delve deeper as to why the muscle remains tight, there is always a reason and when that reason is addressed changes can happen very quickly.

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Daniel Rothenberg

Daniel Rothenberg is a Sports Chiropractor with a Masters of Chiropractic and Masters of Exercise Science majoring in Strength & Conditioning. He works closely with a range of athletes in Brisbane and Ipswich.