I have heard from some of my clients they don’t like to do stretches – and usually they are the ones whose muscles are tight. With tight muscles, it can be strenuous to stretch and it takes patience and some persistence having to bear with stretch pain.
Why do muscles tighten up? There are a number of reasons. Here we will exclude causes of diseases and focus on daily habitual activities or lack of. However, muscles can also tighten up during and after exercise.
One of the main causes of muscles tightening up is sitting daily at a desk, and working for long hours at a computer.
As you can see, the person on the left adopts a sitting posture consisting of:
– Forward head
– Rounded shoulders
– Bent arms at the elbows
– Bent hips
– Rounded lower back
Over many hours and many years of such posture, certain muscles are working harder than others. For example, with forward head, the neck and shoulder muscles at the back have to work a lot harder to hold the head in this position. The normal weight of a head is about 4-5 kg, with a forward head posture; the weight of the head becomes a lot heavier 14-15kg to the muscles at the back! Now you know why we experience tight muscles at the neck and shoulder region after hours at the computer.
Chronically tight muscles will lead to pain and the cause of pain is the development of knots within the muscle, also known as trigger points. Muscle knots are sections within the muscle that is always constricted and never relaxes. A forward head posture tends to produce muscle knots or trigger points (see picture below).
Muscles knots not only cause pain, they can affect the optimal function of the body. With a forward head posture, it can lead to shoulder blade dysfunction. This means the shoulder blade does not move properly when arms are lifted overhead – which can affect performance and may lead to injuries for people who do activities like tennis, badminton, swimming, overhead bench press.
Improving tight muscles, removing muscle knots take repeated stretch and release activities. This is a key reason why Pilates BodyTree conducts Stretch and Release classes, in combination with strength and mobility classes.
These stretch and release classes aim to:
– Provide some relief
– Prepare clients who wish to join a subsequent strength or mobility class
– Teach clients methods they can use at home to stretch and release
Each Stretch and Release class, the teacher will use various movements and apparatus to provide relief to tight muscles as shown in these pictures: