Muscle Stiffness

Causes of Muscle Stiffness:
1. muscle strains
2. arthritis
3. vitamin deficiencies
4. injuries
5. poor sleeping posture
6. obesity
7. illness
8. inactivity
9. dehydration

Treatment for Muscle Stiffness:
1. Apply heat
2. Massage
3. Stretching

Harbor Physical Therapy can provide treatment and education on specific exercises to decrease muscle stiffness. Please contact Harbor Physical Therapy for more information.

Muscle Stiffness

Muscle Stiffness

Many people suffer from muscle stiffness in the morning.  There are many reasons for morning muscle stiffness such as; poor sleeping positions, arthritis, obesity, poor diet, dehydration and having a sedentary lifestyle.

Listed below are examples of ways to decrease muscle stiffness:

  1. Applying heat
  2. Stretching throughout the day
  3. Improve sleeping position- such as, sleeping on your side with a pillow between your knees.
  4. Taking a shower/bath in the morning followed by stretching
  5. Being active throughout the day

To learn specific exercises that can help decrease your morning muscle stiffness, make an appointment at Harbor Physical Therapy. The physical therapist will create a home exercise program and educate you on specific ways to help reduce your discomfort.

What is a Trigger Point?

A trigger point is a specific spot on a tight band of muscle that is hyperirritable. Usually you can feel a nodule or knot in the muscle. When you put pressure on the trigger point, it will feel tender and possibly radiate pain to another area.

Trigger points are most commonly located in the postural muscles of the neck, shoulders, and upper back. Trigger points can manifest themselves in tension headaches, ringing in the ear, and jaw pain.

Lack of exercise, sitting at a computer with poor posture, vitamin deficiencies, lack of sleep and micro trauma that occurs with sports and repetitive activities can all contribute to trigger points.

Physical therapists are trained to help inactivate these trigger points. Physical therapists will use modalities such as heat or ice, soft tissue massage, ultrasound and stretching to help reduce pain and tightness at the site of the trigger point.

Stretching Principles

Stretching after you workout is more beneficial to prevent muscle soreness and injury.  If you stretch before you workout, there is more potential to tear a muscle.  This is due to the lack of blood flow at the muscle. 

To get the most benefit out of stretching, make sure you hold the stretch at a point you feel a pull within the muscle. Stretching should be held between 15-60 seconds.  Perform 2-3 repetitions of each stretch on both sides of your body. If a stretch is painful, you should decrease the range of motion of the stretch.   

Hamstring stretch

Clinical Question- Ultrasound

What is Ultrasound?

Ultrasound is used during physical therapy when a patient presents with pain, soreness, or tightness of a specific body part.  It uses high frequency sound waves that travel to muscle and tissue and warm up the targeted areas by increasing blood flow.  The majority of the time, ultrasound is used in conjunction with massage techniques to further decrease muscle tightness and pain in the treated area.

Clinical Question – Stress

When I have a stressful day, why do I have more neck and back pain?

When stressed, people tend to contract their muscles.  For example, people tend to elevate their shoulders toward their ears when stressed, thus causing increased tightness at the muscle on top of the shoulder (Upper Trapezius).  This leads to increased muscle tightness, which in turn can cause more pain.

Regarding physical therapy of your neck and back.  If you continue to have increased stress in your life while receiving physical therapy, this will lengthen the amount of time it takes to have a successful treatment outcome.  During therapy, the therapist will provide you with techniques to prevent further tightening of your neck and back musculature.

Can sport injuries be prevented?

There are several measures you can take throughout your day to reduce the likelihood of sport-related injuries.

  1. Before playing any sport, be sure to warm up the muscles you will be using.
  2. If you are playing a sport that requires all of your body’s muscles, it is recommended that you take a 5 minute walk, while moving your arms in circular motions to the front and side of your body.
  3. While playing any sport, be sure to start slowly and work up to 100% of your effort.  For example, if playing tennis, start by playing at half the court distance with less effort per swing.  Then, progress to the baseline with your shots as you increase your effort of hitting the tennis ball.
  4. Make sure you drink plenty of fluids; dehydration can lead to muscle cramping, lethargy and dizziness.
  5. Wear proper footwear; do not play sports in sandals or bare feet unless specific to that sport.
  6. Stretch after your sporting activity.  Studies have shown that it is beneficial to stretch afterwards to prevent injury.

Examples of Basic Stretching Exercises

(To find out which muscle the below exercise is targeting, simply drag your mouse over the image)

Shoulder_Stretch Wrist_Flexion_Extension hamstring_stretch Quadricep_Stretch calf-stretch