Whether you overdid it at the gym, sat at your desk too long, drove a long distance in the car, have sustained an injury, or are ill, muscle tension can be frustrating and painful. Muscle tension is frequently the result of stress and anxiety which makes millions of people around the globe susceptible.
Not sure if you have muscle tension? Check out these common symptoms.
- You feel like your muscles are tight or pulling – sometimes they cause sharp or constant pain.
- You have a lot of pain that keeps you from participating in physical activity or even keeps you bedridden.
- You feel like your muscles are twitching, cramping up, or you have frequent spasms.
- You have an overall feeling of tightness that may cause headaches or reduce your flexibility.
Muscle Tension Caused By Stress
Muscle tension caused by stress or anxiety may come and go depending on what is going on in your life. You may find that the symptoms are especially bad at the end of the day and get progressively worse throughout the day. For this reason, many people who experience muscle tension due to stress have trouble falling or staying asleep.
Muscle tension caused by stress can present itself in any number of muscles, remain stationary or migrate from one group of muscles to another group. The most common areas for muscle tension due to stress are:
- back of the head
- shoulders (back and top)
- digestive system
Symptoms may worsen with elevated stress, nervousness or even the thought of an anxious situation. Or, they may come and persist for virtually no reason at all. This is what makes tension pain due to stress or anxiety so frustrating.
Muscle Tension Caused By Overuse
Muscle tension and its accompanying pain may also be the result of overuse or minor injury. Overuse can be from a repetitive job such as typing or working on an assembly line of some sorts. Without proper stretching, muscles become tight and are easily injured. Poor posture can also lead to chronic muscle tension. This if often the case with people who work at a desk job or do a lot of driving.
There is even such as thing as Occupational Overuse Syndrome, previously known as Repetitive Strain Injury, which causes tightness and pain, in muscles joints, tendons, nerves and soft tissues. Tension and pain develop when muscles have been moved in the same way over a period of time. Problems can also arise when postures have been constricted or there has been too much straining.
10 Natural Remedies For Muscle Tension:
While you may not be able to decipher exactly why you have muscle tension, there are many natural remedies that can help reduce the pain and inflammation while restoring mobility to the affected muscles.
1. Relax, Stretch and Breathe Deeply
While this sounds too simple to be true – it is actually the very first thing you should try if you are suffering from muscle tension. This is actually the best thing to do before muscle tension turns to outright pain. If you know that you are susceptible to muscle tension and pain, it is critical that you learn how to relax and incorporate stress-busters in your life. Even if you don’t think you suffer from muscle tension, learning how to relax, stretch and breathe are all healthy preventative measures you can take.
To relax, try some simple yoga moves daily. This will keep your mind focuses, stretch your muscles and help to release tense muscles. Many people find that a few moves at night, before bed and a few in the morning, upon waking, help to reduce tension and keep muscle lose. This is is especially true if you suffer from shoulder, neck or head tension or pain.
Even though we may take it for granted, breathing is essential to health – that is correct breathing. If your breathing is shallow (small and short breaths) you can actually exacerbate anxiety and stress which in turn, makes muscle tension worse.
To get the most out of the oxygen, practice deep and full breaths that start in your diaphragm. To practice, sit up straight and place a hand gently on your abdomen. Take a deep breath in through the nose and watch as your belly rises. Blow the air out of your mouth very slowly and repeat this four or five times and different points throughout the day. Deep breathing will disarm stress and provide a rush of freshly oxygenated blood to your muscles.
Another instant relaxation move is to drop your shoulders. If you are stressed, you will most likely carry your shoulders high and hunched. This can result in shoulder, neck and head tension and is one of the most frequent causes of tension headaches. Remind yourself often, throughout the day to drop your shoulders. You will feel an immediate sense of relief and your tight muscles should relax.
2. Drink Tart Cherry Juice
If you are an avid athlete and suffer from muscle tension and pain, cherry juice can help. It has been shown to reduce muscle stress and inflammation. Studies have shown that runners who drink a glass of tart cherry juice can reduce post-run muscle stiffness and pain. This response is due to the powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of the juice. Always purchase organic tart cherry juice with no additives.
Although you may not feel like moving when your muscles are tense, being active – especially outdoors in the fresh air is a great way to loosen up. Exercise releases endorphins that help combat pain and being outside is often a good distraction from feeling tense and tight.
One of the best things you can do to avoid muscle tension is to adopt a regular exercise routine. The human body loves routine and routine helps us stay sharp both physically and mentally.
Walking outside is one of the best exercises to help prevent and release muscle tension. Just be sure to start slowly if you have not been exercising for some time and do a few stretches before and after.
Acupuncture is an ancient alternative therapy that has been used throughout countless cultures for thousands of years. This method involves the insertion of tiny, very thin needles through the skin in various strategic locations. Acupuncture is at the heart of traditional Chinese medicine and is often used to treat pain. If you decide to try acupuncture for your tension pain, be sure to seek out a certified provider and do some research before going so that you know what to expect.
5. Vitamin D
It has been found that people who suffer from excessive muscle tension, spasms and pain may be deficient in vitamin D. Regular time in the sunlight is the best source of vitamin D but most people don’t get enough of this all year so a high quality supplement is best. You can also get vitamin D from fish, fortified milk and eggs.
Massage therapy is not a new remedy for tension. Massage of some form or another has been part of nearly every culture on Earth since the beginning of recorded time.
Repetitive movement and strenuous physical activity along with injuries and anxiety cause tension and can cause scar tissue in the soft tissue. As mentioned, poor posture can lead to formation of scar tissue as well.
Both sports and remedial massage techniques manipulate soft tissue including muscles, tendons, ligaments and skin. This manipulation helps ease up tight muscles, reduce pain and increase range of movement.
According to the American Massage Therapy Association ( AMTA) massage helps to release contracted muscles and to lengthen tight ones. The Mayo Clinic also states that massage may be useful in the treatment of sore and stiff muscles.
Be sure to see a qualified massage therapist for your muscle tension.
7. Take a Hot Bath
Like massage, hot therapeutic baths are nothing new. There is evidence that people in Ancient Egypt around 2000 B.C. used hot baths for therapeutic purposes. Natural hot springs are popular today as well for healing. Interestingly enough, animals are even known to sit in hot springs.
Hot water helps muscle fibers to loosen and relax. This reduces muscle tension and pain. To increase the effectiveness of the hot bath, try adding Epsom Salt which relaxes the nervous system and draws toxins out of muscles.
In addition, you can also add essential oils to the water that help with relaxation and muscle tension release. Oils such as lavender or chamomile will also help you relax and soothe sore and tight muscles.
Be sure to check with a physician before using a hot bath therapy, especially if you suffer from high blood pressure or take prescription medication.
Known as a the natural herb with a powerful relaxing effect, valerian is able to calm tense muscle, relieve spasms and reduce pain. This native herb of Asia and Europe is used to reduce anxiety, stress, hysteria and cramps. The best way to take valerian is as a relaxing tea – simply steep one teaspoon of dried valerian root with 8 oz of water for ten minutes and strain. You can also take valerian in capsule form.
9. Cayenne Pepper
Cayenne pepper is known for its hot and spicy taste and has been a popular alternative therapy in herbal medicine for centuries. When used as a topical application, cayenne pepper can help reduce muscle and joint pain – especially if you have suffered a minor injury. The active ingredient in cayenne pepper, capsaicin is found in a number of muscle creams and balms. Capsaicin goes to work directly on the sensory nerves, reducing pain and tightness
10. Moist Heat Therapy
Heat therapy can be highly effective at managing chronic muscle tension and pain. Heat helps your muscles to relax and encourages blood flow to the area which can reduce pain. In addition, increasing blood flow to sore muscles also helps in eliminating lactic acid waste buildup which contributes to pain.
For best results, apply a heating pad with moist insert to the painful area and leave it on for about twenty minutes at a time. You can also apply a heat wrap to the area where you feel the tension. Some come especially contoured for certain body parts such as neck, shoulders, back etc..
What else can you do?
In addition to the above remedies, it is important to maintain a healthy diet, drink plenty of water and exercise regularly. The healthier you are overall, the less likely you are to experience muscle tension and pain. Get plenty of sleep, develop healthy living routines and find a way to deal with stress in your life so that it does not accumulate.
Learn to spot the warning signs of muscle tension and pain and take action before it gets worse. Learning to understand your body and its subtle cues are extremely important in preventing and managing muscle tension.
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