What Is Chronic Muscle Tension and What To Do About It?

If you train long enough or have stress, then you are likely going to experience chronic muscle tension.  It may sound simple, but the fact is that this condition will cause more pain this year than any other combination of diseases.

Skeletal muscle has a unique property that is a mystery to most people.  It takes energy for a muscle to relax and it takes no energy for a muscle to contract or remained contracted.  This is why when you die; you are stiff as a board.

Even in our modern world, science still hasn’t concluded what the actual mechanism is that causes muscles to contract.  Shocking as that may be, some simple truths are known relative to the “sliding filament theory.”

Once a muscle has contracted, the body must pour energy into the muscle to get it to relax.  This adds yet another reason why exercising with some qualifying injuries is necessary.

You can take all the muscle relaxers you want to, but you need to get the muscle to contract before it will “let go.”  Depending on the depth of the muscle tension, an intense contraction may be needed to allow the muscle to “reset” and then relax.

In some cases a simple light exercise routine can help restore the normal function of the area, but in the other conditions a more diverse approach may be needed as the appropriate medical protocol.

More aggressive approaches can include, PNF (proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation), chiropractic manipulation, muscle electrical stimulation, deep tissue massage, therapeutic ultrasound, vibration, biofeedback techniques, laser or other deep heat therapies.

In extreme cases mixing manipulation and adding medications (ie. trigger point injections) can offer the best outcomes.  In any situation, it is best to get to the root cause of the issue prior to implementing the best treatment choices.

The majority of people just chose to ignore it and then more and more muscle tissue becomes involved over a period of time.  This can lead to palpable trigger points and in some cases the nerve becomes trapped.  Located inside all skeletal muscles are “sensors” that detect chronic muscle tension.

The sensing of the chronic muscle tension leads to excessive neurological reactions and this leads to even more muscle tension and eventually more pain.  Commonly this is known as the “pain-spasm cycle.”

This pain-spasm cycle can be quite overwhelming and leads to the aggressive condition of chronic muscle fatigue, which then leads to tears in the muscle and/or tendons.

Once these patterns become established, the body can get locked and this leads to more serious conditions such as myositis ossificans and cognitive pain.

Nothing can be done in some of these extreme cases and masses are clearly felt on the patient.  Some are so aggressive they are visible to the naked eye.

As we age, we maintain cardiovascular  and strength fitness about 40-50 times better than we do at maintaining flexibility.  This is why full range of motion and stretching should top the list of any fitness program.

About the Author

DrDavidRyanDr. David Ryan has an extensive background in both coaching and playing professional sports, and has been the team physician for several highly ranked teams. Dr. Ryan now serves as the current Co-Chairman of the Arnold Sports Festival (www.arnoldclassic.com) and is a former Medical Director of this internationally acclaimed event.

Dr. Ryans numerous articles have been published in International Medical Journals, Muscle & Fitness Magazine as well as on the popular BodyBuilding.com website. Visit Dr. Ryans home page on here: www.drdavidryan.com and his YouTube page here.

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