Muscle tension and stiffness can affect anyone after engaging in physical activity. Most often athletes may experience muscle tension after a rigorous workout, especially if they don’t have a solid post workout recovery routine in place. What’s the best way to relax muscles, then, and ease the discomfort?
Today we’re taking a look at how to relax your muscles when experiencing muscle tension or stiffness. With a few easy techniques you can work out that tension and get back to peak health.
Are Muscle Tightness and Muscle Tension the Same Thing?
Before we hop into how to relax your muscles, let’s talk about muscle tightness and muscle tension. While they’re often lumped in together, muscle tightness (also called stiffness) and muscle tension aren’t technically the same thing.
Muscle tightness or stiffness is when your muscles feel really tight and moving normally is difficult even after rest or a cool down period. You might feel achy or a dull pain in your muscles when experiencing muscle tightness. This can often be worked out with good stretching or some mild exercise.
Muscle tension, on the other hand, is when your muscles aren’t able to relax normally even though there’s no longer need for contraction. The continuous contraction of muscle groups can lead to pain and discomfort whether moving or at rest. Muscle tension is one of the most common causes of muscle pain. Unfortunately, pain can cause muscles to subconsciously continue to seize up, making it a negative reciprocal relationship. Stress is another common factor that contributes to muscle tension.
Learning How to Relax Your Muscles to Avoid Pain
Now that we’ve discussed the subtle differences between muscle stiffness and muscle tension, let’s look at how to relax your muscles when you’re feeling that discomfort. The best way to relax muscles may be different from person to person and circumstance to circumstance, so being aware of multiple methods may be useful.
A few of our preferred methods for how to relax your muscles include:
- Meditating to manage stress levels and center yourself
- Stretching to protect range of motion and increase mobility
- Applying heat therapy to affected muscle groups
- Experiencing a massage
Muscle Relaxation Meditation and Breathing Exercises
First up on our list of methods for how to relax your muscles are muscle relaxation meditation and breathing exercises. These two techniques can be practiced together or independently to fit your needs but have both been shown to potentially yield positive results.
Muscle relaxation meditation focuses on mindfulness. Contrary to what you may have thought, mindfulness isn’t about emptying your mind of all thoughts, but instead about recognizing and acknowledging your thoughts without judgement. It’s a skill you can develop over time, so don’t be frustrated if you struggle a little the first few times.
Why does mindfulness make our list as a possible best way to relax muscles? Meditation has long been associated with pain relief, stress management, and relaxation. As your mind relaxes, your body will follow. This may help affected muscle groups release the muscle tension keeping them contracted.
When it comes to breathing exercises, the best way to relax muscles is with a method called Progress Muscle Relaxation. This exercise has you taking deep breaths while purposefully tensing and releasing certain muscle groups, one at a time, methodically down the body. This method for how to relax your muscles has been shown to be effective and can bring a certain level of calm and reduced stress along with it.
Stretches to Relieve Muscle Tension
Next up on our journey to learn how to relax your muscles and alleviate muscle tension and stiffness is stretching. Active stretching can help protect your range of motion while simultaneously working to increase mobility and flexibility.
When you’re recovering from a sports injury or experiencing muscle soreness, you run the risk of losing range of motion in the affected area. Doing gentle stretches to keep these areas loose not only works to protect your mobility but also loosen up tight muscles that may be causing added discomfort or pain.
Stretching as part of a post workout recovery routine may help you avoid certain muscle stiffness conditions like Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). It’s why stretching both before and after a workout or engaging in physical activity is crucial regardless of your athletic ability.
Furthermore, stretching also helps release toxins that may have built up in your muscles. As you continue to read this article and learn more about how to relax your muscles, you’ll see how staying hydrated and experiencing a massage after stretching is a great way to flush those toxins from your body, as well.
Bonus: In addition to stretching, low impact exercises like yoga and tai chi are also great methods for how to relax your muscles after engaging in physical activity.
Heat Therapy for Muscles
The benefits of heat therapy on muscles makes it a welcome addition to our list as a potential best way to relax muscles that have tightened up. Put simply, heat therapy works to loosen up muscles, allow them to heal faster, and may help alleviate pain.
There are different types of heat therapy: dry and moist. Moist heat therapy consists of activities like taking a warm bath or using steam towels to loosen muscles. Conversely, dry heat therapy methods include applying a heating pad to the affected area. For those looking for better application of heat therapy to the body, you might consider the benefits of heated massage chairs for muscle tension relief. Luxury massage chairs allow you to combine the healing potential of massage and heat therapy to get you back to feeling your best in no time.
How to Relax Your Muscles During Massage
If you’ve ever had a massage before, then no doubt you’re familiar with the deep relaxation that comes along with it. More than just a chance to relax and enjoy the body work, however, massage could also help with how to relax your muscles.
Different types of massage focus on different needs. The best way to relax muscles with massage is typically with techniques like Swedish massage and therapeutic massage using movements such as kneading. These massage techniques focus on muscle manipulation to relax muscle groups and restore range of motion to affected areas.
If scheduling regular massage therapist appointments is difficult or not your preference, the ability to experience full body massages on your schedule and in the privacy of your own home are some of the many benefits of owning a massage chair. Luxury massage chairs today have eliminated the difference between using a massage chair vs human massage with both 3D and 4D massage roller options.
The advancements of today’s chairs provide users with a wide range of massage chair features and massage programs to choose from. Some models may even offer AI massage technology, which uses two types of biofeedback analysis to provide a personalized massage experience each time.
Learning how to relax muscles when experiencing muscle tension or stiffness is important. We hope our guide has given you a few new methods to consider for pain relief and more efficient healing. Taking care of your body is important regardless of your lifestyle. By taking the time to ensure your muscles are properly stretched and relaxed, you’ll be able to maintain optimal performance levels for physical activities and hopefully prevent potential injury. If you’re experiencing painful muscle tension, consult a medical professional before beginning any new methods for how to relax your muscles to ensure it’s safe to do so.
For more information on the potential health benefits of massage chairs, check out these resources: