Muscle Tightness Explained: Why do my muscles feel tight?

Muscle Tightness Explained: Why do my muscles feel tight?

In this video I’m going to talk about why do my muscles feel tight and what to do about it. Hi, and welcome back to Physiotutors. So why do muscles feel tight? And what does it actually mean?
Is tightness the same as muscle shortening? Is it actually muscle hardening, or is it just a subjective feeling that is unpleasant? To answer the first statement, I would like to give you an example So I feel absolutely no tightness in my hamstrings but when I bend forward I cannot even touch the ground so I have pretty short hamstrings and a decreased range of motion but no tightness. At the same time we see a lot of patients that have tight upper traps but yet, they have absolutely normal length and even long traps, so the first statement is actually not true. Furthermore tightness is also not the same as actual tension in the tissue. A research done by Andersen et al. in the year 2010 Confirmed that increased trapezius pain sensitivity is not associated with increased tissue hardness So believe it or not It’s impossible to palpate stiffness or to measure it with an algometer The researchers in this article even found that the painful spots are actually softer You can find the link to this article in the description down below so statement 2 is also not true. So that leaves us with statement 3 and this is the tightness is actually only an unpleasant subjective feeling. So why do we experience stiffness then? a lot of times we experience tightness when we have to remain in certain postures for a long time, so picture a longer car ride or if you are sitting behind your laptop for the whole day and this situation leads to impaired blood flow especially to the nerves in the affected area and this creates an ischemic situation which is signaling to our brain that we have to move again and to assume a new posture if we look at chronic stiffness however some might argue that for example the upper traps are chronically overloaded simply because they are weak Most probably other factors play a role as well like general health state stress diet sleep or the emotional state which all play a role in other chronic conditions In this case the driver of our pain is not only coming from actual mechanical nociception but rather from peripheral or central sensitization to the need of more blood flow So with all this information in mind it becomes clear, why stretching is not a good option although it can have a short-term analgesic and relaxing effect but if a muscle is not short and tightness is increased sensitivity it just doesn’t make sense to lengthen it even more So what about soft tissue work like Foam rolling? We have learned from research that it is physically impossible to break down adhesions in our tissues with a foam roller or mobility blade Dr. Andreo Spina explains the reasons for that in a nice little video for which we will post a link down below in the description What soft tissue work can do however is to inhibit nociception at the dorsal horn. But again this is only generating a temporal effect The problem at the same time is that these treatments also create nociception Because they are very unpleasant which increases the sensitivity again So you will have to find a good balance and at the end you will also only have a temporary effect. How about changing posture? one thing is to be more aware about your posture and mainly about remaining in a certain posture for too long and to change it more frequently This helps in cases where tightness is related to actual mechanical nocieption However, there is no robust evidence that a bad posture itself is the reason for pain or problems So just remember your best posture is always your next posture At last we have exercise and resistance training while most people relate strength training with becoming tighter This is only true for a short period of time during the workout or up to one or three days later however in the long run resistance training can even lead to an increase of flexibility Think of exercises where you need to generate strength eccentrically and in end range positions like in the romanian deadlift for example the muscle will actually adapt and lengthen More important in our case however is that the resistance training creates local adaptions in the muscle Which makes them less likely to suffer metabolic distress and to get overloaded On top of that exercise has an analgesic effect and can reduce inflammation which in turn can reduce the nervous system sensibility All right, so to sum it up muscle tightness is not so much a physical condition, but rather sensitivity that comes from inflammation The only real long-term solutions that we have is to change our posture more regularly and to perform resistance training This was the end of our video And I hope I could answer the question why do muscles become tight sufficiently if I didn’t and you still have any questions just drop a comment down below and if you want to know how to test the strength of your trapezius muscles make sure to watch our video on trapezius muscle strength testing If you want to know more about us and see more content check us out on various social media or on this was Kai. I’ll see you in the next video. Bye

100 Replies to “Muscle Tightness Explained: Why do my muscles feel tight?”

  1. Vielen Dank für das tolle Video! Ich habe Euren Kanal schon eine weile abonniert und finde ihn auch für mein Studium (Bsc. Physio) sehr hilfreich! 🙂

  2. Thanks for this video, I have been fighting plantar fasciitis for over 9 months now, whats your advise on this? besides changing positions! Thanks 😀

  3. when an athlete sense tightness in just a relatively small group of muscle fibers, not all the muscle, and you can palpate a tight band (going transverly through the muscle belly), what can it be? I ipotisized the presence of a tender point, as my local induced ischemia produced pain only in that area and not referred anywhere else. Tried to threat it with overpressure to create ischemia and then quickly release to create a vasodilatation, stretching the muscle but it seems not to work. The athlete is a futsal player, she trains 4 times a week. her quads are very strong at muscle testing, the pain is not provoked by either contraction nor stretching. Thanks for the answer, a freshly graduated physio

  4. Thank you for the concise explanation. What if you don't recover normally after exercise because of health conditions like chronic fatigue syndrome /fibromyalgia/adrenal fatigue? And the pain relief you experience is temporary i.e. while exercising but from just an hour after you finish your pain is more intense and this pain lasts for several days?

  5. I was running the other day and I hit my leg with my friends knee really hard , and right in the impact started hurting really bad I tried to run I couldn't…. I decided to rest but didn't feel better , some tell me that I have to rest for 2 weeks but I don't want to ! I want to play soccer , what can I do to get back into it I don't wanna rest I wanna play

  6. Although, why someone tell me about stretching is the solution that help for reduce tightness. But I think this video change my knowledge. : Thank you : )

  7. Thank you for this thought-provoking video! I agree that muscle tightness is related to perception and psychosocial factors (e.g., stress, anxiety, pain, etc.). However, I don't feel that the explanation of tightness in this video accounts for physical changes in muscle length that occur with prolonged postures, such as shortened hip flexors with prolonged sitting or immobilization following fracture or surgery. There are definite changes in tissue tension that occur in these situations, which can manifest in ROM limitations or contracture over time if not addressed with mobility exercises (e.g., AROM, AAROM, contract/relax stretching, joint mobilization). I agree that changing postures frequently and resistance exercises can help combat muscle tightness, whether it is perceived or related to physical muscle shortening of the sarcomeres. I just have a hard time believing that muscle tightness is ONLY perceived. I am interested in reading the studies that were referenced in this video to get a better idea of how they were conducted and how "tightness" was defined. I love your videos, thanks Physiotutors!

  8. your video is very useful explaining your opinion & expertise about the benefit of exercise & muscle adaptation but subject is more about the vocabulary thank you people for building our knowledge and god bless you

  9. As an Athletic training student, I thank you for providing these as a way for me to study and review. Keep up the good work and keep bringing these videos!!

  10. "A study in patients with chronic tension-type headache found a significant correlation between muscle hardness and local tenderness(3). In the present study in healthy subjects, 2 of the most sensitive sites (upper boarder of trapezius) were the softest parts compared with all other sites. This reflects that the site is in an area of thicker muscle tissue. Previously, increased hardness has been seen after exercise in healthy subjects(20) and after 15 minuets of sustained computer work(10). This was not seen in this study, probably because the duration of exercise was too short to cause metabolic changes. This suggests that increased muscle hardness is mainly found in chronic pathologic muscle condition. Based on the previous findings,(3) it might be expected that the subjects with a higher number of latent trigger points would show increased hardness due to the taut bands. The limited number of latent trigger points in the current study does not allow a detailed analysis of this relation, but future studies should assess a potential difference in hardness between tender points and latent trigger points." 

    This is exactly what Andersen et al. wrote in their article (Page 498- Andersen H, Ge HY, Arendt-Nielsen L, Danneskiold-Samsøe B, Graven-Nielsen T. Increased trapezius pain sensitivity is not associated with increased tissue hardness. J Pain. 2010 May;11(5):491-9.). I don't agree with your conclusions reading that.

    Why you don't cite these papers (they are references in Andersen's paper)? 

    3. Ashina M, Bendtsen L, Jensen R, Sakai F, Olesen J: Muscle hardness in patients with chronic tension-type headache: Relation to actual headache state. Pain 79:201-205, 1999.
    10. Horikawa M: Effect of visual display terminal height on the trapezius muscle hardness: Quantitative evaluation by a newly developed muscle hardness meter. Appl Ergon 32: 473-478, 2001.
    20. Murayama M, Nosaka K, Yoneda T, Minamitani K: Changes in hardness of the human elbow flexor muscles af- ter eccentric exercise. Eur J Appl Physiol 82:361-367, 2000.

    I like your videos but it is not fair that your conclusions are so biased in this video.
    Best regards,

  11. tightness on my face, temples, and back of the head, pretty much my whole head. I have this conditions since about a year ago and nothing seems to help it. stress?

  12. Hello. first of all thank you for sharing this helpful information. I've dealt with acute neck and. back pain and spasms for years. I thought it was tightness, thanks to this, now I know I was wrong. But here's my question, I have acute muscle spasms in my whole back body. from my neck to my lower back. my upper back spasms are so bad it moved in to chest and makes it hard to breathe let alone workout!! what does this mean and how can I make it stop? so far I've had multiple hospital visits and they didn't know how to treat me😢.

  13. Hey physio, I had a doubt.
    If there is tightness in hams, without releasing its tightness how can go for his resistance training .
    How will resistance training affect??

  14. Very nice video. I couldn't find any video on this topic in full detail. But now my problem is solved. Thank you very much bro

  15. ''You're best posture is always your next posture.'' As a student in physical therapy, I love this. Thanks ! I've also favored active therapy i.e. exercices, strenghtening, etc. Do you think the type of muscle fiber may play a role in the sensation of tightness ?

  16. Thnks for this….. Suppose a person with hamstring tightness(always in a position with 45° of knee flexion)…. So in this case…. What should i give??? Resistance against knee extension???? Or stretching???? Sorry for my english

  17. Hey guys thanks for the great content and advice! I've had a pain in my left upper trapezius for years after an injury in the gym doing the overhead shoulder press, and sometimes get migraines due to the pressure on my neck, i avoided working out for years to give it time to heal but it has remained the same, I have been doing stretches for years but the pain has consistently remained in the same spot! It hasn't seemed to help doing stretches, does this sound like it could be due to weakness? are there any exercises or advice you could give me? Thanks and keep up the good work!

  18. In the video and in your past comments, you define "The tightness is the unpleasant feeling you get from
    ischemia in your muscles, or in a chonic case more likely sensitization

    of the nervous system." And you don't mention the relationship between tightness and adhesions. And then, in the Treatment Option section in the video, you suddenly mention Adhesion, and say Soft Tissue work doesn't work for muscle tightness as it doesn't release muscle adhesions. But soft tissue work is proved to increase the blood flow in the tissues, although the effect is limited to the surficial parts (not deep in the muscles). Then you can say Soft Tissue work is an effective treatment for Muscle Stiffness caused by ischemia?

  19. A shortened or tight muscle can impair movement quality and create tension in a muscle even at rest. because why

  20. Thanks for the video!! It was really interesting, and I wanted to ask you a few questions…

    1. In the video you seemed to brush off the notion that, when dealing with tightness, muscles tend to be short, and you cited some anecdotal evidence based on patients you’ve seen at your clinic. Are there any studies you could link me to that could back that up? (I.e. muscle weakness, not shortness, is the primary cause of tightness). How can you tell when a muscle is short vs when a muscle is just stiff? Could it be both? Do you modify the treatment plan to include stretching if the muscle is short?

    2. One of the things you noted as the cause for tightness is overload of the muscle. How can you tell when the muscle is overloaded because it’s compensating for other weak muscles versus if it’s overloaded because it’s simply a weak muscle? Should you strengthen a compensating muscle, or should you stretch it and strengthen the weak muscles? Or should you do both?

    3. The standard treatment plan for APT (Anterior Pelvic Tilt) is to stretch lower back/hip flexors and strengthen glutes/hamstrings/core, with the idea being that the lower back and hip flexors are “tight and shortened” and the glutes/hamstrings/core are “weak and elongated”. What do you think about this and its traditional stretching/strengthening protocol? Do you agree with it?

  21. U ruled out tightness but then why range of motion is not achieved minimum normal range of motion if not achieved due to muscular shortening can we call it muscle tightening. Pain and restricted rom if observed
    if yes then ur example of tight hamstring can be counteracted

  22. Hi, Ive had a chronicly stiff elbow which was also painful when I lifted things up with it, recently ive had my trapezius muscles massaged and this has relieved me of my pain and stiffness!
    Could you explain Why my trap was causing pain and stiff at the elbow? Doesn't make sense to me

  23. i hav tendon tightening problem behind
    knee..due to whch my leg is tilt bent…can u provide solution other than surgery?

  24. I have a hip pain daily since about Feb of 2014. :/ So I found this video after I searched more into fixing it because many ways haven't worked. Heh.

    It sometimes makes me tired and messes with my mood sometimes. One of my online friends whose Asian as well, he uses peptides and he's wanted to send me some for free but he's unsure if it will pass customs. It's legal but not for human use as labeled but they're popular, research substances, natural and safe.

  25. Hello,
    I suffer from knee pain since 3 years (patellofemoral syndrome). My vastus lateralis is less strong than on the healthy leg and i strenghtened my vmo which didnt't make a great difference. Ive seen 3 different PTs for this.

    I discovered that the pain friction and inhibition is miraculously lessened for a few hours id say when i stretch my hamstrings. (leg on the ground, bent trunk while the back is hollow) But I have to do it like every day or it goes back. Why is that ? (i also sit a lot in front of the computer). Also i think my hamstring is not that shortened because i got burning pain probably from overstretching the other hamstring.
    What could i do to make sure my knee stays like when the hamstring has been stretched recently?

    Thank you for the video as a lot of misinformation is being spread by sketchy companies on the internet.

    i saw another comment about fiber type. Could inactivity reduce my hamstrings proportion of type 1 fiber? (enough speculation for me, I sincerely hope you will answer)

  26. a video on trigger points and taut band, and referred pain secondary to this. would love to hear your views on this. thanks

  27. Sir, I have been suffering from left foot muscle stiffness since 30 days. I recently subjected to physio which included p painful massaging and in combination with hammering.. Crushing unbearable pain. But post treatment felt lot better. Kindly suggest any exercise.

  28. Sir ,
    Can you explain how are trigger points formed in a muscle and that is the presence of trigger points suggestive of muscle tightness or shortness ?

  29. Thank you! very informational and I completely agree. However, you said overloaded trapezius muscles are weak and can't compensate so this results in pain and inflammation. However, would they not become stronger if they are subject to higher levels of activity? As well would strengthening these muscles not contribute to increases in pain and inflammation at least in the short term due to increased activity with resistance training?

  30. So if a patient walks in saying he would like a massage because his whole upper back feels stiff and some moments during movement, the best long term treatment would be information about posture change and training?
    Is there any kind of research on what kind of exercise would be best? Intense cardio like rowing? Or in this case, doing upper back strength training like bend over row and the lot?

  31. I can't move my body during sleeping nd … i don't feel pain… at all… in my body all i feel is… someone's touching my backbone ….😑😑😑…

  32. Hi i have chronic pelvic pain urgency and groin pain lots of pain in my lower abs whats the best to help my problems please reply thanks

  33. hi , is it mean it is best to strech a muscle when the muscle is really short? we must test the muscle length and strength before we treat?

  34. what do you mean by resistance training? I have extreme tight muscles in the forearm. So how do I make resistance training for the forearm? Do you mean making slow negative movements at the exercices?

  35. Hey, I've had a fracture recently in the ankle joint and my Achilles tendon seems to be stiff due to prolonged immobilisation in the cast. I had been working on resisted flexion and dorsi flexion for the past two weeks in my rehab program but the stiffness doesn't seem to go away. It is probably better than when I started though. I will stop with the wall ankle mobilisation stretch cuz you've just pointed out why that wouldn't help. What else would you recommend? Thanks in advance!

  36. What do you think about SNPE(Self Nature Posture Exercise)? It is a self-posture-correcting exercise invented in S.Korea, and has cured many people from chornic diseases by bringing back the natural balance in muscle and bones. The cured cases are quite miraculous but this vid makes me wonder if SNPE is safe for human muscles.. One of its moves (T-move) literally forces you to squash and pound your back muscles on a hard, wavy-shaped, narrow pillow. They say after doing T-move for a certain amount of time (enduring the great pain), the tension you feel in your back muscles melts away all at once (They named it " icicle theory"). I am considering to start 100 days SNPE challenge but now I am quite worried.. Do you think it is safe to pound your back on a hard wavy pillow untill the pain goes away? I've tried it for a week but it seems to get more painful than before.😂

  37. If you just gonna read from side of the screen, why stand there? Move yourself out of the video, focus on contents and then you could sound more natural.

  38. Hello! I'm suffering from this issue and I can't describe how terrible it is. Things you described sounds very similar and helped me to understand many things. However, I'm having tightness in my arm in overall and sometimes reaching behind my shoulder so, what kind of resistance training would you suggest? And would you suggest taking magnesium pills, they say lack of magnesium cause such problems. Hope you reply this because I really need it. Thank you.

  39. What do you mean by resistance training if the muscle is tight that means muscle fibers are in tension eg if I I have tight hams I can't bend forward that simply means there is shortness and weaknesses of the muscle how is it better to give resistance training without releasing the muscle isn't it better to release then train the muscle

  40. Great video. What about remedial massage? Does it have a place in reducing muscle tension in your opinion?

  41. I feel tightness in rt side of back so decreasing range of left side turn laterally .
    Suggest if there is some massage oil or exercise to relieve tightness .

  42. so I have really tight upper traps, where even i cant even lower my shoulders all the way down, they are tight 24/7 and really big. so i need to strenghten them even more, not stretch them? sorry, but i am not buying it, this would just make it worse

  43. Hey thanks for these informations, I really need an answer about this : my left face muscles are extremely tight I feel an imbarable tightness on that side and it's causing asymmetry on my face, any suggestions about the causes/treatment please?

  44. Hellow sir , i am also a student of physiotherapy from july onwards my intership will start can u just give m the suggestions about the practical practise means how to start where to start i am so confused 😰😰

  45. Ive been lifting weight for 5 years. My flexibility is horrible. How does yoga improve flexibility if stretching doesn't help… Also how does exercising decrease inflammation if it increases blood flow

  46. Nice video. I do have muscle stiffness all over my body (when it get worse get joints pain(all major joints).when I started to do yoga from one year ago every day, got much better but as lately I had twice Tendinitis during past six months I stopped the yoga practice. how to treat it? Thanks again for sharing your knowledge 🌹

  47. any ideas about pain getting worse in shoulder when using standing computer desk and having arms on 90 degree angle to type on keyboard? and things like cooking makes it worse as well ( chopping vegetables with arm 90 degrees )

  48. Well, you better read the research more thoroughly, this video contains misleading information. As you can read in the following systematic review with meta-analyses massage has significant anti-inflammatory effects.

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