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Why Are My Muscles So Tight?

Aug 15, 2022

There is nothing worse than getting up from sitting down or out of the car and feeling stiff. It's something we tend to feel more and more as we get older.


This is not one of those blogs where I explain in boring detail the physiology behind muscle stiffness. It's more of a general description of whats going on to make you feel stiff in your muscles.


There are a few reasons why your muscles get stiff. 


  • Not moving around enough


In general the main cause of muscles stiffening up is lack of movement. We are built to move. This does not always mean running or lifting weights but more general day to day regular movement. 

Most of us have jobs in which we sit for long periods of time. While there is nothing wrong with sitting, and as recent evidence would suggest there is nothing wrong with slouching, we are not designed to be in this position for hours and hours at a time. 

When you consider your working day combined with your drive to work and then sitting on the couch at home, for some of us the majority of our day is spent sitting. This can cause muscles to tighten in the shortened position particularly around the hip. 


How do you stop this happening? 


Move more….. start to increase the time you spend on our feet, take a few minutes breaks during work to walk and stretch out those muscles as well as a regular stretching routine for the problem areas. 


Also start to do some exercise every day, even just plain old walking will really help.


  • Joint restriction


Other causes of tightness can be a joint restriction or painful joint, both of which mean the joint won’t move through it’s fully and therefore the muscles never get stretched when you walk, sit, swim or move.  


In this case, sometimes the joint issue will need to be addressed to relieve the tightness but commonly a Podiatrist prescribed stretching programme can overcome these joint restrictions and allow those muscles loosen up. 


  • Following activity 


Muscles are prone to feeling tight following vigorous activity, especially after coming back after a bit of time off from that exercise. We call this DOMS, which stands for Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. It’s the type of stiff sore feeling after you do an activity that you are not used to or haven’t done in a long time. 


It indicates that there has been some micro-tearing of the muscles involved. This is actually a normal response to vigorous exercise and will usually goes away within 3-4 days. The muscles will adapt and repair and will be gradually more capable of dealing with the activity. This is the principal behind strength training. 


Recovery is vital in helping this tight feeling, light active recovery of walking or pool work is usually recommended in the day or two following intense exercise as well as regular stretching. 


If your muscles become stiff with minimal activity, then it may be a case that your muscles are de-conditioned or that there is an underlying weakness which is causing the muscles to work harder than they should. In this case the weak muscle or structure needs to be identified and strengthened. 


If you have muscle stiffness that is not going away then you should consider getting it looked at, as a simple exercises programme can get you back in action.  

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