Massage for Muscle Tension


What is Muscle Tension?

Muscle tension refers to the condition in which muscles of the body remain semi-contracted for an extended period. Muscle tension is typically caused by the physiological effects of stress and can lead to episodes of back pain. Stress may change the body’s nervous system by constricting blood vessels and reducing blood flow to the soft tissues, including muscles, tendons, and nerves in the back. This process causes a decrease in oxygen and a buildup of biochemical waste products in the muscles, resulting in muscle tension, spasm, and back pain. Muscle rigidity, also known as muscle tension, rigor, or stiffness, is one of the most common causes of muscle pain. It’s characterized by the inability of the muscles to relax normally. The condition can affect any of the muscles in the body, causing sharp pain that makes it difficult to move. Muscle tension is typically treated using nonsurgical options to relax the muscles including exercise, water therapy, and heat therapy.

How do I know you have muscle tension?

Do you roll over in the morning and feel parts of your body spasm or ache? Or maybe you walk around all day, going about your everyday life, with chronic pain somewhere? Is the stress of your job weighing on you not just mentally, but physically? All of this can lead to, or be caused by muscle tension. Most people have experienced chronic muscle tension, whether it is in the form of muscle pain or tension headaches.
The three most common causes of muscle tension are:

1. Stress

Stress doesn’t just affect your mental health, it can also have a detrimental effect on your physical health. High cortisol and constant pressure on the nervous system can cause tense and tight muscles when your body locks up to go into fight or flight mode. This can be stress from work, life, and things out of your control like the pandemic.

2. Exercise

Exercise is the more obvious cause of muscle tension, as you may work in a way that impacts specific groups of muscles. An example of this is someone who lifts heavy weights having back pain from the impact of the exercise. You are directly causing the muscle contraction, and feeling the remaining tension from that.

3. Repetitive movement or positions

Repetitive movements or positions from work or at home can also cause muscle tension, as you create wear and tear on the same muscle groups, over and over again. This does not allow for the muscle fibers to repair themselves from this action and can restrict blood flow to the muscles. Over time, this will lead to muscle tension, chronic pain, and even injury.

How do you relieve muscle tension?

Muscle tension can be an incredibly uncomfortable sensation and can lead to chronic pain if you don’t take care of it. Finding relaxation techniques that will release this muscle tension is important so that it doesn’t progress into a health condition. The best way to relieve muscle tension is through passive assisted stretching. It will give the muscle the time it needs to stop contracting, and let the muscle fibers relax. This will give you the relief you have been searching for. There are muscles all over your body. When you need to move a particular part of your body, your brain sends a nerve signal to the muscles located in that body part. This causes the muscles to tighten, or contract. Muscles can contract a little bit or a lot, depending on the type of signal the brain sends. After contracting, the muscles relax until the next time you need to use them. Muscle rigidity happens when a muscle or a group of muscles stays contracted or partly contracted for an extended period. The brain continues to send nerve signals telling the muscle to contract even when the muscle is no longer needed for movement. This can sometimes last for several hours or days. The longer your muscle remains contracted, the more pain you’ll feel. Muscle rigidity is often triggered by stress. Stress can adversely affect your body’s nervous system — including your nerves — and how they function. Your nervous system may respond to stress by putting additional pressure on the blood vessels, which results in reduced blood flow to the muscles. This can cause muscle tension and pain. Certain medications, such as statins, can also cause muscle rigidity. Some medical conditions may also contribute to it. These include:
  • amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, which is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that causes nerve problems and a loss of control of voluntary muscles
  • chronic exertional compartment syndrome, which is an exercise-induced muscle and nerve condition that causes pain and swelling
  • chronic fatigue syndrome is a condition that causes extreme fatigue, sleep abnormalities, and muscle pain
  • claudication, which is a condition in which cramping occurs due to a lack of blood flow to the muscles, usually in the legs
  • dehydration, which is a condition that develops as a result of not drinking enough water
  • delayed-onset muscle soreness, which is a condition characterized by muscle pain and stiffness that develops hours or days after very strenuous exercise
  • dystonia, which is a condition that causes random and involuntary muscle contractions
  • fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder that can cause muscle soreness, pain, and rigidity
  • lupus, which is a chronic inflammatory disease that can cause pain and stiffness in the joints
  • Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, which are tick-borne illnesses that can cause nerve damage
  • myofascial pain syndrome, which is a chronic disorder in which pressure on sensitive points in the muscles causes pain
  • Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurological disease that affects movement
  • polymyalgia rheumatica, is a chronic inflammatory disease that can cause muscle pain and stiffness, especially in the shoulders
  • repetitive strain injury, which is an injury to the muscles or nerves as a result of muscle overuse
  • rheumatoid arthritis, which is a chronic inflammatory disorder affecting the joints, especially those in the hands and feet
  • bacterial and viral infections
  • pinched nerves

How Is Muscle Rigidity Diagnosed?

To diagnose muscle rigidity, your doctor will first request your medical history and perform a physical exam. They may also run laboratory tests to look for muscle damage and to rule out any possible underlying conditions that may be causing your muscle rigidity. These tests may include:
  • blood tests, which can help your doctor check for muscle damage and the presence of certain autoimmune disorders that can cause rigidity
  • MRI and CT scans can reveal any bone abnormalities that may be causing pinched nerves
  • an electromyogram, which can help your doctor evaluate how well the muscles and nerves are working
  • an ultrasound, which can help your doctor find tears and inflammation in muscle fibers

Home Remedies

Home remedies are usually effective in treating muscle rigidity caused by minor injuries, stress, or overuse. They can include the following:
  • Applying a warm compress or heating pad to the affected muscle to help relax rigid muscles.
  • Gently stretch your stiff muscle to help relax it.
  • Avoid strenuous activity that may trigger the muscle to become rigid again.
  • Encouraging the muscles to relax using massage, yoga, or tai chi.

Stretches you can do at home to relieve your muscle tension

Spinal Twist

This stretch exercise is the best way to release, stretch, and relieve pain along the side of the back and spine. These muscles are most likely tight on everyone, as they are affected by everyday activities. This is a more advanced stretch, as it can feel intense for those with tight back muscles or a lack of mobility. If you deal with chronic back pain, you may need to work your way through some of the other back stretches before progressing to this one. For this stretch, you will need the space to lie down and extend your arms on a flat surface, once a day on each side.

Step 1. Begin by lying on your back, with both legs extended straight out, and your arms out in a T for the starting position.

Step 2. Pick your right leg up to a ninety-degree angle, parallel to the ceiling, and place your left hand on your right knee.

Step 3. Slowly twist your right leg to the left side of your body, while turning your head to the right.

Step 4. Make sure to stop when you feel a light stretch, and ease slowly into a deeper stretch.

Step 5. Allow gravity to pull your knee towards the floor, while keeping your right arm and both shoulders on the floor.

Step 6. Hold until the spine has released and repeat on the opposite side.


Massage for Muscle Tension

There is a difference between having a fit body with strong, hard muscles and having muscle tension. What is muscle tension? Muscle tension is caused when a muscle contract and does not release, which is not a healthy condition. Muscle tension can be caused by a physical occurrence such as overuse, or it can be a product of stress.

According to WebMD, muscle tension caused by stress, if left untreated, can lead to tension headaches. The main symptoms of muscle tension are stiff and achy muscles in the upper half of the body, often including the neck and jaw. If you find your muscle tension is debilitating in any way, it is best to consult your doctor. For general muscle tension, there are many alternative approaches.

Massage benefits can include:
  • Reducing stress and increasing relaxation.
  • Reducing pain and muscle soreness and tension.
  • Improving circulation, energy, and alertness.
  • Lowering heart rate and blood pressure.
  • Improving immune function.
How does massage help with muscle tension?
Massage helps to relieve tension by stretching and increasing tissue elasticity. High levels of tension in the muscles shorten the muscle fibers and can restrict movement. Massage can help to increase the temperature of the soft tissue so muscles fibers can be loosened.
Does massage release tension?
Along with rebalancing your hormones, massage therapy releases muscle tension. When you’re stressed, your muscles tighten in response, and when the stress ends, your muscles generally relax. But if you’re constantly stressed, it’s likely your muscles can stay slightly, permanently tensed.
How often should you get a massage for tension?
You should go at least once per month, but as often as twice per week in severe pain situations. The longer you wait though, the more often you’ll start the process of loosening up your muscles because they tense up if you don’t go often enough.
How do you release tight muscles?
To decrease muscle stiffness, improve circulation, and reduce inflammation, try the following:
  1. make time for regular exercise.
  2. stretch before and after exercise.
  3. take warm baths.
  4. massage sore areas.
How do you loosen tight muscles?
  1. Stretching. Stretching can be very important for the tightness of muscles but is recommended to be performed at the end of an activity and performed statically. …
  2. Massage Guns. Massage guns are the new craze in the fitness industry. …
  3. Foam Rolling. …
  4. Strengthening.
What do tight muscles feel like when massaging?
During a massage treatment, when we stretch this tight tissue you could feel a burning sensation. This is a myofascial release sensation and is generally short-lived and quite normal, but not felt by everyone. The intensity and sensations felt, will vary between clients.

Massage used to be available only through luxury spas and upscale health clubs. Today, massage therapy is offered in businesses, clinics, hospitals, and even airports. If you’ve never tried massage, learn about its possible health benefits and what to expect during a massage therapy session.


What is massage?


Massage is a general term for pressing, rubbing, and manipulating your skin, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Massage may range from light stroking to deep pressure. There are many different types of massage, including these common types:

  • Swedish massage. This is a gentle form of massage that uses long strokes, kneading, deep circular movements, vibration, and tapping. It helps you feel relaxed and energized.
  • Deep massage. This massage technique uses slower, more forceful strokes to target the deeper layers of muscle and connective tissue. It’s commonly used to help with muscle damage from injuries.
  • Sports massage. This is similar to Swedish massage, but it’s geared toward people involved in sports activities to help prevent or treat injuries.
  • Trigger point massage. This massage focuses on areas of tight muscle fibers that can form in your muscles after injuries or overuse.


Benefits of massage


Massage is generally considered part of integrative medicine. It’s increasingly being offered along with standard treatment for a wide range of medical conditions and situations.

Massage benefits can include:

  • Reducing stress and increasing relaxation
  • Reducing pain and muscle soreness and tension
  • Improving circulation, energy, and alertness
  • Lowering heart rate and blood pressure
  • Improving immune function

While more research is needed to confirm the benefits of massage, some studies have found massage may also be helpful for:

  • Anxiety
  • Digestive disorders
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia related to stress
  • Low back pain
  • Myofascial pain syndrome
  • Nerve pain
  • Soft tissue strains or injuries
  • Sports injuries
  • Temporomandibular joint pain
  • Upper back and neck pain

Beyond the benefits for specific conditions or diseases, some people enjoy massage because it often produces feelings of caring, comfort and connection.

Despite its benefits, massage isn’t meant as a replacement for regular medical care. Let your doctor know you’re trying massage and be sure to follow any standard treatment plans you have.

Risks of massage


Most people can benefit from massage. However, massage may not be appropriate if you have:

  • Bleeding disorders or take blood-thinning medication
  • Burns or healing wounds
  • Deep vein thrombosis
  • Infections
  • Broken bones (fractures)
  • Severe osteoporosis
  • A very low platelet count (severe thrombocytopenia)

Discuss the pros and cons of massage with your doctor, especially if you are pregnant or if you have cancer or unexplained pain.

Some forms of massage can leave you feeling a bit sore the next day. But massage shouldn’t ordinarily be painful or uncomfortable. If any part of your massage doesn’t feel right or is painful, speak up right away. Most serious problems come from too much pressure during massage.

What you can expect during a massage


You don’t need any special preparation for massage. Before a massage therapy session starts, your massage therapist should ask you about any symptoms, your medical history and what you’re hoping to get out of massage. Your massage therapist should explain the kind of massage and techniques he or she will use.


In a typical massage therapy session, you undress or wear loose-fitting clothing. Undress only to the point that you’re comfortable. You generally lie on a table and cover yourself with a sheet. Your massage therapist will leave the room when you undress before the massage and when you dress after it. You can also have a massage while sitting in a chair, fully clothed. Your massage therapist should perform an evaluation through touch to locate painful or tense areas and to determine how much pressure to apply.

Depending on preference, your massage therapist may use oil or lotion to reduce friction on your skin. Tell your massage therapist if you might be allergic to any ingredients.

A massage session may last from 10 to 90 minutes, depending on the type of massage and how much time you have. No matter what kind of massage you choose, you should feel calm and relaxed during and after your massage. Breathe normally throughout your massage.

Your massage therapist may play music during your massage or talk to you, but you can tell him or her if you prefer quiet.

If a massage therapist is pushing too hard, ask for lighter pressure. Occasionally you may have a sensitive spot in a muscle that feels like a knot. It’s likely to be uncomfortable while your massage therapist works it out. But if it becomes painful, speak up.


The take-home message about massage


Brush aside any thoughts that massage is only a feel-good way to indulge or pamper yourself. On the contrary, massage can be a powerful tool to help you take charge of your health and well-being, whether you have a specific health condition or are just looking for another stress reliever. You can even learn how to do self-massage or how to engage in massage with a partner at home.



Massage therapy is one of the best-known alternative remedies for relieving muscle tension. It is believed that massage therapy is about 4,000 years old, and in the 4th century B.C., Hippocrates wrote that patients could be treated by rubbing. Massage addresses the muscle tissue directly and can assist the muscle in releasing its contraction, thus easing muscle tension. The American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) reports that massage can help release contracted muscles and lengthen tight ones. Mayo Clinic concurs that massage might be useful in the treatment of stiff and sore muscles.

There are many types of massage to choose from. Swedish massage is a gentle touch massage that is good for lighter forms of tension, while deep-tissue massage is effective in addressing deeper muscle tension. Either of these forms of massage will be helpful and a great way to relieve muscle tension, tension headaches, and neck stiffness. Massage therapists in your area can be found online or through a recommendation from a local doctor, chiropractor, or physical therapist.

Massage is a great way of giving your body that extra help with tension in short and tight musculature. The manipulation of soft tissue will encourage tissue nourishment and help to iron out those bundles of semi-contracted muscle fibers, permitting you to move in better range and make stretching a little more pleasant. Chiropractic manipulation will help to relax the tight muscles as well as wake up the stretched muscles that have not been contracting properly. Chiropractic manipulation and massage play a very important role in preventing injuries in people that train hard and for those who just sit behind the desk for forty hours a week by helping to re-balance the “tightened” vs “weakened” muscles. Regular treatment will promote a healthier posture and reduce imbalances, and of course, leaves you feeling just that little bit better about yourself too.


Yoga is perhaps the oldest form of alternative muscle tension management. Some people claim the practice of yoga to be over 5,000 years old. Yoga uses techniques to lengthen, stretch and relax muscles while simultaneously working with your breath. Yoga addresses both the physical side of muscle tension and the stress aspect as well.

The late Tomas Brofeldt, M.D., from the University of California’s Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, used yoga to treat head pain. Yoga helps to improve posture which, in turn, can help relieve muscle tension. Mayo Clinic speaks of yoga as a way to relieve stress, which is one of the causes of muscle tension. A consistent yoga practice can help individuals face stress with more positivity and strength.

There are many forms of yoga available, and likely one particular style will feel best to you. Some styles of yoga are Ashtanga, Bikram, and Iyengar. If you’re just starting out, any beginner’s class or beginner’s yoga DVD will help you see if yoga can assist you in relieving your muscle tension. Starting slowly is always smart. Yoga classes in your area may be listed online or posted at your local fitness center.


People have been using hot baths to relieve muscle tension for a long time. There is evidence to suggest that people in Ancient Egypt, around 2000 B.C., were using hot baths for therapeutic purposes. Many cultures have created healing environments around natural hot springs. Even animals have been known to sit in hot springs. Unless you have a contraindicated condition, you can try hot baths to ease your muscle tension.

Hot water allows muscle fibers to loosen and relax, in turn relieving muscle tension. Hot baths can also be soothing to your nervous system. Healing substances can be added to the bath, such as Epsom salts. The Epsom Salt Industry Council explains that Epsom salt, which is the mineral magnesium sulfate, can act as a sedative for the nervous system, as well as help to lessen the amount of lactic acid built up in the muscle fibers. Essential oils can also be added to a warm bath to assist in relaxation and release muscle tension. Never stay in a warm bath too long. Be aware of dizziness, and always check with your doctor first before trying these remedies.

*Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition. The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a diagnosis, treatment, or prescription of any kind. The decision to use, or not to use, any information is the sole responsibility of the reader. These statements are not expressions of legal opinion relative to the scope of practice, medical diagnosis, or medical advice, nor do they represent an endorsement of any product, company, or specific massage therapy technique, modality, or approach. All trademarks, registered trademarks, brand names, registered brand names, logos, and company logos referenced in this post are the property of their owners.