Why do we need muscles?
Good muscle health is essential; nearly all movement of the body is carried out by means of muscle contraction – from physical movements such as lifting your arm to automatic movements such as respiration. Tight muscles can restrict our movement and put strain on our joints which can affect our posture and the way that we walk.
9 ways to relax tense muscles
1) Progressive muscle relaxation
Systematically tense a group of muscles, such as the neck and shoulder muscles, then release the tension and feel your muscles relax. Focusing on the difference between tension and relaxation can help you to recognise when you are tensing your muscles unintentionally throughout the day.
Stretching is one of the easiest and fastest ways to release tension in muscles. Warming up and cooling down effectively before exercising will help to prevent the stiffness and tension that can happen after exercise.
Foam rolling (or self-myofascial release) can help to release tense muscles. They focus pressure on a particular area and encourage the surrounding muscles to relax. Foam rolling can help improve flexibility and joint range motion, improve circulation, and help to reduce Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) that occurs after exercising.
3) Drink water
Muscle tightening or cramping in the large muscles of the legs can be an early sign of dehydration. We should drink on average between 8-10 ounces of water a day, although it is important to drink more during exercise and illness to replace the fluid lost in sweat. Drinking water can help change muscle consistency and soften tight, hard muscles.1
4) Have a massage
Massages are a great way to work out any tight knots of muscle. Getting a massage from another person helps to work into areas that you can’t otherwise reach – plus it has great relaxing benefits overall!
5) Increase your magnesium intake
Magnesium is an important electrolyte for muscle contraction, energy production, and bone and cell formation. Magnesium is also important for flexibility; low levels of this mineral can lead to a build-up of lactic acid in the muscles causing tightness.
Magnesium can be found in foods such as pumpkin seeds, spinach, and avocados, it can also be found in electrolyte drinks such as Balance. These drinks normally contain plenty of the important minerals we need to sustain healthy bones and muscles. However, often they are also packed full of caffeine which can contribute to dehydration so be sure to check the label before trying one!
6) Drink cherry juice
Cherries are rich in antioxidants, have anti-inflammatory properties and may reduce muscle damage during exercise. One study found that long distance runners who drank cherry juice before running had reduced muscle pain and stiffness post-exercise.2
7) Stress Reduction
Stress can have a massive impact on our muscles! When we feel stressed, our automatic reaction is to tense up in response to whatever is causing us to feel this way. To relieve tense muscles it is important to relax the mind as well as the body.
Meditation, breathing techniques and yoga are among the most popular ways to calm the mind when we feel stressed. Herbal remedies are another alternative that have been shown to have promising relaxing effects.
Valerian is a natural herb with strong relaxing properties. It is thought to calm tense muscles, relieve spasms and reduce pain. Valerian is also commonly used to reduce anxiety and stress and can be used as part of a sleeping aid. Try mixing Stress Relief Daytime that contains valerian and hops with some fruit juice to help remedy the effects of mild stress and anxiety.
8) Take a bath
Hot water helps to loosen and relax muscle fibres. Take a bath rather than use hot packs as these just heat the outer skin and layers of blood which quickly gets pumped away and immediately cooled. A hot bath heats the muscle tissues at a much deeper level because the excess heat has nowhere to go.3
9) Increase your blood circulation
Poor blood circulation will make your body struggle to deliver important minerals to your muscles. Increasing your blood circulation will provide your muscles with more energy as they will be better supplied with freshly oxygenated blood. Good circulation is also important for removing toxins and impurities that can linger in the body and impact on our immune system and digestive system. Keeping the toxins in the body can cause our body to stress and tighten muscles compulsively.