Natural Ways To Relieve Muscle Tension

Dealing with stress almost always means dealing with muscle tension.

While you work on lowering your stress level and increasing your healthy coping mechanisms, you might need some simple help for the most annoying symptoms – like a stiff neck or sore back.

These are a few great places to start, but don’t miss the second half, where we talk about to pros and cons of stretching sore muscles.

Drink Tart Cherry Juice

If you are an avid athlete and suffer from muscle tension and pain, cherry juice can help. It has been shown to reduce muscle stress and inflammation. Studies have shown that runners who drink a glass of tart cherry juice can reduce post-run muscle stiffness and pain. This response is due to the powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of the juice. Always purchase organic tart cherry juice with no additives.

Movement

Although you may not feel like moving when your muscles are tense, being active – especially outdoors in the fresh air is a great way to loosen up. Exercise releases endorphins that help combat pain and being outside is often a good distraction from feeling tense and tight.

One of the best things you can do to avoid muscle tension is to adopt a regular exercise routine. The human body loves routine and routine helps us stay sharp both physically and mentally.

Walking outside is one of the best exercises to help prevent and release muscle tension. Just be sure to start slowly if you have not been exercising for some time and do a few stretches before and after.

Vitamin D

It has been found that people who suffer from excessive muscle tension, spasms and pain may be deficient in vitamin D.  Regular time in the sunlight is hte best source of vitamin D but most people don’t get enough of this all year so a high quality supplement is best. You can also get vitamin D from fish, fortified milk and eggs.

Valerian

Known as a the natural herb with a powerful relaxing effect, valerian is able to calm tense muscle, relieve spasms and reduce pain. This native herb of Asia and Europe is used to reduce anxiety, stress, hysteria and cramps. Valerian can be taken as a tea or a capsule.

Moist Heat Therapy

Heat therapy can be highly effective at managing chronic muscle tension and pain. Heat helps your muscles to relax and encourages blood flow to the area which can reduce pain. In addition, increasing blood flow to sore muscles also helps in eliminating lactic acid waste buildup which contributes to pain.

For best results, apply a heating pad with moist insert to the painful area and leave it on for about twenty minutes at a time. You can also apply a heat wrap to the area where you feel the tension. SOme come especially contoured for certain body parts such as neck, shoulders, back etc..
– via Natural Living Ideas

Why Stretching Doesn’t Always Relieve Tension And Pain

After a long day staring at the computer or filling out paperwork, do you ever reach up to stretch your sore neck, only to end up… more sore?

It’s important to remember to role that our daily habits play in forming our muscle memory. The posture you take when sitting at a desk, when exercising, and even why sleeping, play a vital role in keeping your muscles loose so you don’t struggle with that sore neck in the first place, no matter the stress you may face.

Hand on head, yanking my skull down toward my shoulder, hoping it would relieve my pain. It never did.

Here’s why stretching alone doesn’t solve your neck pain.

When you stretch a muscle, you’re lengthening it farther than its normal length-tension relationship it exists in. The muscle spindles that sit within the belly of the muscle are there to detect changes in the length of the muscle, and send that information to the central nervous system (CNS) so that the body can determine the position of the body parts.

If the CNS receives the signal that the length has changed in the area where you are stretching, it can send back a signal to lock down tight on that area because all it knows is that things are now ‘more lengthened’ from the length-tension relationship it knows.

Stretching a muscle can actually do the very opposite of what you’re trying to achieve – making the very muscle you’re trying to make less tight, tighter.

This is the part where everyone throws their hands up because, ‘well jeez, if stretching doesn’t make your muscles feel better, what are we supposed to do then?’

The solution is to bring your nervous system on board to expand, control, support, and strengthen new length-tension variability in your soft tissue.

Where Fixing Neck Pain Begins

You must remember this: How you do one thing is how you do everything.

How you position your head and shoulders the majority of your day – including your sleep time – is one of the biggest factors in neck pain and shoulder tension. And it’s often  overlooked entirely.

Your soft tissues and joints respond to the signals they receive.

No matter what that signal is, your muscles will respond. Even if that response puts you in a significant movement-potential hole in the future.

If you always send the signal that your skull belongs in front of your spine, your neck muscles, which were designed to keep your skull stacked on top of your spine, will alter their length in order to accommodate this new position.

The muscles in the front of your neck will shorten, the muscles in the back of your neck will lengthen (and subsequently tense up in order to try and restore order in that area). They will accommodate your new head & neck position…

But here’s the problem with that sub-par head position –

  • It increases the stress on the vertebrae and discs of your spine.
  • It increases the weight of your head the further out in front of your spine it sits.
  • Despite the fact that your breathing will eventually be compromised by the change in shape of your neck.

Don’t think you draw your head forward all day long?

Here are places where you may be drawing your head forward and not even realizing it. Plus, I have a corrective you can apply immediately to start fixing the position.

As You Stare At Your Computer Screen

This is the obvious one that most everyone knows about by now, yet it still needs a giant flood light focused on it since we spend so much time at computers. You can do all of the postural work you want, but spending a vast majority of your day in sub-optimal head position will undo all of that postural work and then some.

The Fix:

If someone grabbed the hair at the very center back of your head and gently pulled your head back to the wall behind you – draw your head back just like that. Then, if we affixed a helium-filled balloon to the top of your head and its upward pull could gently pull your head up with it – draw your head into that position.

As You Sleep, Restoring & Recharging Every Part Of Your Body, Except Your Head & Neck Muscles

The woman in this photo is tucking her chin down towards her chest, a position that, over time, can add up to stiff and sore neck and shoulders.

Even though Sleeping Beauty is “resting”, she is conditioning her soft tissue to support that folded forward head position. And if you’ve never looked into Temporomandibular Joint Disorders (TMJ, aka, jaw problems) research, there is a surprising amount of muscle tension happening while we sleep if we are under stress. And who isn’t under stress these days?

So despite the fact that sleeping should be a time of rest, you could be tensing your muscles quite hard throughout the night. Even if you’re not tensing your muscles all night long, holding any position will, over time, encourage your body to get better at getting into that position.

The Fix:

When you lie down tonight and are laying on your back or your side, take stock of where your head is positioned in relation to your body. Consider your spine at the center of your body. Stack your head on top of your body like the dot over a lowercase letter ‘i’. Anytime you find yourself leaning your head off to the side or curling it forward & down, return to your letter ‘i’ position with your head.

This often means doing the exact same shift back that you did when you fixed your posture while looking at your computer screen.
– via Fit For Real Life

Do you struggle with muscle tension from anxiety and stress? Where does it show up the most in your body?