- Dr. Brittany Long
Top 10 Treatments to Relieve Tightly Wound Muscles
With so much desk work and not enough time in each day (or so it seems!) it is not surprising that most of us are dealing with some variety of tight muscles, cramps or even spasms. And we all know, these aches and pains are no fun! To bring some flexibility and mobility back into your body try out these following techniques - you might hate a few, but you might find even a few more that not only do you like completing, but that your body will thank you for!
1. Stretching - there are a MILLION stretching routines out there, two of my favorite (free) resources to use those include FitOn and Yoga for Beginners Mind + Body. Really when it comes to stretching the best thing to do is to listen to your body. Where do you feel like you might need a stretch? Do you need to hold it for longer or do you need to go in and out of the stretch? Listen to your body and get regular with a routine and your body will thank you with more flexible and relaxed muscles. (2)
2. Rolling - just as there are a million stretching routines, there are also a MILLION foam rolling routines (or a million people telling you not to foam roll). Again, this is a piece where listening to your body will be crucial. If you have extra tight muscles or muscle knots you have become friends with, I do find rolling can be incredibly helpful to break up the fascial adhesions that have most likely formed. You can roll out with a foam roller, a plastic core grid roller, a lacrosse ball or even a golf ball! The great thing about a golf ball or lacrosse ball are these are very easy to travel with. (3)
3. Massage - whether you have a housemate, spouse, partner, friend or family member or a massage therapist, regular massage can be incredibly helpful to help relieve muscular tension (and stress). While some insurance will cover medical massage (always call your insurance if you have questions about your coverage), most don't. So this is where having a friend/spouse/partner who is willing to trade massages could come in handy! If you don't have someone willing to trade massages with you then you can always try self-massage on areas you can reach and a roller on areas that you can't reach as easily! (4)
4. Magnesium glycinate or magnesium malate - these two forms of magnesium are extra bioavailable which means you can absorb it better and thus get it into your muscles more easily. You can either supplement with magnesium or you can also find it in plenty of foods such as spinach, nuts and seeds, chocolate (>70% cocoa please!), beans and whole grains. Magnesium is an essential nutrient not only for general cell health and production but it also specifically helps with the relaxation phase of a muscle cell. (1)
5. Tool-assisted therapies - some types of tool-assisted therapies include Graston, ASTYM, ISTM, Gua sha and cupping. You can complete some of these therapies at home yourself but it is always recommended to take some variety of an instructional course first since there is a potential for you to harm yourself during the process. These therapies all vary slightly but essentially are used to help improve blood flow, break up adhesions and dissolve muscle knots. If you have tried massage therapy and/or stretching and rolling at home and you still have unresolved aches/pains/knots, these could be the next step to try! (5)
6. Active release and pin and stretch muscle activation techniques - these two therapies can either be performed by a health care professional or be performed at home. In active release technique you will essentially try and move a body part against resistance for 10 seconds and then stretch that muscle afterwards. In pin and stretch you (or the health care provider) will "pin" the muscle near the insertion on the bone and then move the limb/part of the body into a stretch away from the pinned spot. These two techniques can help to change the feedback cycle of the Golgi apparatus (which will then help you have a little more length in that muscle)! (6, 7)
7. Epsom salt baths - this is a tried and true method to not only melt knots (because of the hot water) but also because of the magnesium your skin and thus muscles will absorb while you are soaking. For extra soothing you can always add some essential oils to the tub with your epsom salts such as peppermint, lavender, boswellia but make sure you test and guarantee you are not sensitive to the oil before adding it! (8)
8. Topical agents - no one likes to smell like Icy Hot but topical menthol, topical capsaicin, topical turmeric and CBD can all be helpful in relaxing tight muscles. Always be sure to do a small spot test before slathering up but if your skin tolerates the topical agent then this can be an easy treatment item to carry with or to add to your daily routine to reduce muscular aches and pains. The great thing about topicals as well is that in order to apply them you are also going to be getting a small amount of massage in - a true two-for-one! (9,10,11,12)
If you would like further guidance on how best to create a feasible and individualized plan to reduce muscle tension, schedule an appointment with Dr. Long today!
*DISCLAIMER: This document is not intended to treat or diagnose disease. Before implementing any new treatment protocols be sure to consult with a licensed physician. The author has nothing to disclose in regards to supplements or products mentioned within this document and the author does not receive any monetary or other incentive to mention the recommended supplements or products.