Balance Your Body
Most of us can locate a few tight muscles in our body, but nobody can explain to us why they're tight. Stretching is a temporary solution, but understanding the underlying cause of muscle tightness will help you see a more holistic remedy.
The body loves balance. If there's weakness in one muscle group, its opposing muscle group will often become tight as an adaptation and result of muscle weakness. Muscles like to balance each other. If one muscle is not doing enough, the other will actually do more on its own, without any intervention by you, in an attempt to maintain stability around the joint. Simply stretching the tight muscle is only half of the remedy. You need to identify the corresponding muscle weakness.
Here are a couple common examples of this:
1. Tightness across the front of the thigh or quadriceps muscle is often associated with hamstring weakness on the backside of the thigh. Reduced flexibility in the quadriceps and decreased strength in the hamstring is one of the leading causes of knee problems in young athletes. You can easily remedy this muscle imbalance with a flexibility program, core training, and a little focus on movements using the hamstrings.
2. Many active adults experience tightness in the low back and are always looking for things that stretch the low back, not realizing that there is a corresponding weakness throughout the entire anterior abdominal wall. Immediately following back stretches, abdominal strengthening will reinforce muscle balance and reduce the need for those back muscles to tighten down now that the muscle strength of the front and the back of the torso are equally balanced.
The next time that you are stretching or thinking about tight muscles, just remember that there is a lot more going on than just the muscle that feels tight. You may have an underlying weakness that's contributing to pain and could be setting you up for injury.
Gray Cook is a practicing physical therapist and creator of the Functional Movement Screen. Learn more at GrayCook.com.