The modern-day lifestyle is very sedentary. We spend most of our lives sitting in a car, hunched over our computers at work, or watching TV in the evening. Having a sedentary lifestyle can lead to muscle and joint stiffness. When you’re not regularly mobilizing your joints or working your muscles, you might start to find that your whole body feels tense.
The same can occur when you work out a lot. Even if you do mobilize your joints and challenge your body through exercise, you’re still prone to feeling tension in your muscles.
Whether you work out or not, your muscles are prone to tightness over time. But there are things that you can do to reduce this tension in your muscles and improve movement around your joints. Here are some simple and effective ways to relieve muscle tension and enhance your flexibility.
Stretching is one of the most effective ways to relieve tension in the muscles and improve flexibility. Although you can’t permanently increase the length of your muscles, you can stretch them to increase the range of motion around your joints.
When you stretch, you feel a slight pull in the muscles because your central nervous system (CNS) gets activated. Your CNS ‘knows’ what a safe range of motion is for your muscles and it will stop you from stretching them too far and getting injured. Over time, if you never stretch or move your joints through their full range of motion, you lose some of this range. But when you regularly take your muscles to their end range of motion through stretching, you can increase your ‘safe’ range.
You can increase your range of motion through passive stretching and active stretching, or using a stretching machine.
If you’re wondering ‘how do stretch machines work’, it’s through this mechanism. They enable your muscles to gradually stretch further and further to increase your range of motion.
Stretching isn’t always the most effective solution when your muscles are extremely tight. In some cases, you might benefit more from foam rolling.
Foam rollers are hard, cylindrical pieces of equipment that you can use to reduce muscle tension. They are commonly used by athletes to speed up muscle recovery after a tough workout, but anybody can benefit from them.
Foam rolling is known as a self-myofascial release technique. Alongside a reduction in muscle tension, regular use of a foam roller can increase flexibility and joint range of motion.
Massage is an effective way to relax the muscles and reduce tension. It can be used to speed up muscle recovery by helping to flush inflammatory molecules out of the area.
You can perform self-massage using your hands or a massage ball for some quick relief. Or you can book yourself in to see a professional massage therapist if you want a full-body deep tissue massage, which is particularly helpful for lower back tension.