The human body has approximately 640 skeletal muscles, all of which help for staying active and adapting to ongoing challenges and the physics of living on earth. However, chronic muscle tension and disharmony is a very common problem in daily living, and can contribute to ongoing pain and stress. Gravity itself makes maintaining a healthy and relaxed posture a never-ending work-in-progress.
Regardless, the human body has self-correcting biofeedback intelligence, an inner self-awareness that can enable physical recovery and refinement as well as correct action. Athletes use this for fine-tuning in sports. Much of what the body accomplishes daily happens unconsciously through conditioning of over-learned movements and actions. Good self-awareness and cooperation with the body’s feedback systems can result in enhanced muscle coordination and ease of movement, and better posture and efficiency of bodily care. In contrast, over-learned bad physical habits left unsolved or out of awareness can lead to chronic health problems that affect quality of life.
Muscle tension can result directly from mental stress, and muscle tension can cause the mind itself to become tense and uptight. Muscle tension can also be caused by improper use of body mechanics causing maladaptive stress on the system.
Muscle tension in any location can feel tightened and shortened, in spasm, restless and fatigued, knotted, and produce tender points. Tensions and insults to muscle tissue can occur throughout the head and body, and refer pain to other locations. Chronic muscle tension can obstruct natural blood flow and energy, and place overbearing stress on joints, tendons and ligaments. This can impinge on nerve and blood flow, causing feelings of numbness in distant body locations. Ongoing muscle tension can cause or exacerbate headaches, back pain, neck and shoulder pain, TMJ (jaw pain) and bruxism (teeth clenching), joint pain and arthritis, anxiety and restlessness, fatigue and insomnia, among numerous other conditions, as the whole human system is affected by its parts.
Often, medical or trauma-related pain may be difficult to alleviate. However, there is much that can be done to correct or improve existing muscle tension conditions that lead to pain and stress. Here are five strategies to consider.
- Become aware of the problem: Define the problem and gain clarity for self-correction. If there is any possible medical problem, see a physician. Some common behavioral causes of muscle-related pain include chronic forward head posture, forward rounded or raised shoulders, sustained muscle tension without rest, shallow breathing and tensing up during stressful thoughts, and over-tightening muscles when in use. Existing medical and pain conditions may trigger a tendency to tense muscles to compensate for pain or limited movements. Look for maladaptive behaviors and habits, and workplace challenges affecting posture and perturbing certain
- Use Biofeedback Therapy: A microphone to the muscles. EMG biofeedback sensors placed over tense muscles yield observable onscreen real time data of muscle activity, even while engaged in movements and tasks. Self-awareness of muscle activity can occur at both conscious and subconscious levels for self-correction of tensions and maladaptive habits leading toward pain. Along with breathing, heart rate, and skin temperature biofeedback, this training can enhance mental and physical relaxation and
- Correcting and restoring the physical body: Find a health care specialist to train how to correct muscular and structural problems, while being sensitive to medical issues. Correcting body posture can be very difficult, but in time and with dedication, doable. Maintaining healthy and comfortable posture can release unnecessary pressure toward the body, and is a natural way toward healing pain. Stretching is key to enhancing posture, and bringing wellness and freedom to muscles and joints. Commit to an exercise program for building strength, especially in weaker muscles and for body symmetry. Massage therapy helps to heal and restore integrity to the muscles, facial tissues, and the general human structure. Always give your body healing time between workouts and learn how to enhance exercise recovery through proper diet and good self-care.
- Correcting Ergonomics: Make sure your workstation and work style supports having good posture and wellness, and a healthy balance of relaxation with brief micro-breaks (yield to relaxation – set a timer for every 20 minutes). Get up and stretch, and breathe
- Stress Management Lifestyle: Learn to relax, let go of hurriedness, notice impatience and fidgeting and make corrections. Release muscles frequently. Take on stress management training and aim for optimal physical and mental wellness in school, work, and daily life.