What a wonderful feeling it is to wake up in the morning ready to jump out of bed and seize the day. But then you feel your stiff neck. Every movement you make sends a shooting pain down your neck and shoulders, that’s if you can even move your head at all.
But why do muscles tense up?
These are some of the many reasons why muscles tense up:
- Work stress or overdoing it at sports
- Mental strain owing to stress, depression, social life or work environment
- Poor posture, for instance owing to sitting for long periods
- Incorrect sleeping position
The main reason, though, is likely to be poor posture on account of sitting down all day in an office. While you may still be careful to sit up straight early in the morning, over the course of the day your upper body will lean forward more and more, which leads to a rounding of the spine. To be able to read the text on your computer screen, you tilt your head upwards, which means that your neck muscles are compressed and blood flow in the area is compromised. If blood flow is interrupted for a long period, the muscles harden, which in turn makes them less flexible.
A similar thing can happen when you do sit ups. Instead of tensing our stomach muscles to bend the upper body upwards and forwards, we tend to strain the muscles in the shoulder and neck area. Drawing the chin to the chest overstretches the neck muscles, which again strains them. You should always make sure to use your stomach muscles to do sit ups and not to move your head forwards.
How can tension be released?
There are various ways to release the tension in your muscles. Ideally, you’ll notice your poor posture, adopt the right posture and thus quickly relieve the affected muscles.
Taking a warm bath, having a massage, doing stretching exercises (preferably as a precautionary measure) and/or having heat treatment can help in stubborn cases. Doctors will often also recommend medication and injections. These tend to relieve the pain, but don’t necessarily help increase the flow of blood to the muscles – and so they treat the symptoms rather than the cause.
Tense muscles can be very effectively treated by applying heat. Heat patches or a warming salve are applied to the affected site. Once applied to the skin, the active ingredient reacts and slowly exudes a soothing warmth. A chain reaction ensues: the blood circulation is stimulated, the muscle slowly relaxes and the tension dissolves.