What Causes Muscle Tightness?

April 15, 2021

From a Muscle Activation Techniques® (MAT®) perspective, we recognize that muscle tightness is a symptom of underlying muscle weaknesses. When the body senses muscle weakness it will tighten up other muscles in order to protect itself from injury. Muscle tightness is a protective mechanism by the body that results from the instability issues that are related to muscle weaknesses. Like when we walk on Ice,  the 1st thing that the body does is tighten up in order to protect from falling and injuring itself. This tightness is a natural protective mechanism by the body designed to protect itself from injury. This tightness goes away when you return to solid ground where the body is able to sense the stability again. This tightness is this same protective mechanism that occurs when the body senses muscle weaknesses.  

Original Causes of Muscular Tightness

The original cause of muscle weakness and the associated muscle tightness is stress being placed on the body. The stresses placed on the body can be physical, chemical or emotional in nature, or can come from a combination of all three.  When the stress tolerance levels in the body is exceeded, it takes its toll on the neuromuscular system. This can lead to muscle weakness which in turn, can result in muscle tightness.What Causes Muscle Tightness?

There are many forms of physical stress that can trigger muscle weakness and its associated tightness.  In terms of exercise, it can be doing too much weight, working out too long, it may be a specific exercise or as unsuspecting as one specific position you put yourself into.  

Injury is another form of stress that can cause chronic muscle tightness. This includes any/all injuries that have occurred during one's lifetime. Old ankle sprains, car accidents, disease processes, broken bones, and surgeries to name a few. Therefore, having a thorough health history is if the utmost priority to the MAT Specialist.

Chemical stress is less obvious than physical stress however it should not be overlooked when working with a client. Sources of chemical stress can come from allergies, food intolerances alcohol, and medications. Again, it is the accumulation of stresses on the body that can lead to muscle weakness and the associated tightness. Therefore, In cases where chemicals are taking its toll on the body, the MAT specialist's role is to raise the tolerance of the muscles that have been weakened due to the stress tolerance levels being exceeded. This will enable the body to handle the stresses related to these potential triggers. The MAT specialist can identify where these weaknesses are by first identifying areas of muscle tightness.  This process provides a unique opportunity for the specialist to work with and communicate with other health care providers and stay within their scope of practice to ensure the best outcomes for their clientele.

Emotional stress can be another cause of muscle weakness and its associated tightness. This is a complicated issue to deal with on our clients and not one that we may even want to approach directly. However, like with chemical stresses, the role of the MAT specialist remains the same. The goal for the MAT practitioner is to raise the tolerance levels of the affected muscle tissues in order that they can handle the overall stress levels that are being placed on the body. When the tolerance levels of the muscles increase, the muscles will demonstrate greater amounts of strength and then the chronic tightness will go away. The goal of an MAT specialist is not to treat emotional issues directly, however, we understand that by improving the tolerance levels of the muscles, the body is better equipped to handle any form of stress that is placed on the body.  Working to improve muscle function and eliminate tightness from someone dealing with high amounts of pressure from work, dealing financial stress and relationship problems can go along the way in helping improve the quality of life of our clients.

How to Reduce Muscle Tightness?

The first step to reducing tightness is to identify where there are muscle weaknesses in the body. These weaknesses can be identified through a ROM assessment which by identifying muscle tightness will be an indicator of where muscle weaknesses are. The MAT specialist will note the client's subjective reports relating to tightness and/or pain. it is important to gather this subjective information however, the MAT process can expand off of this information through the recording of objective information gathered through the assessment of ranges of motion in order to identify the specific imbalances that reflect the chronic tightness experienced by the client.

Using this information, the MAT specialist will then begin to test specific muscles for weaknesses in order to determine which muscles are contributing to the identified tightness.  Once specific weaknesses have been identified, the specialist will employ a manual activation technique which we refer to as a DFMAT, or a low-intensity isometric exercise referred to as a “PIC”, in order to activate the associated muscles by restoring proper communication between the brain and the muscles. This process continues with the activation of all of the muscles that relate to the limitation in ROM. The end result of the activation technique will be that the body loosens up and the muscular imbalances are eliminated.

What Causes Muscle TightnessIf a client has been experiencing chronic tightness it will be due to long-term weaknesses that the body has experienced. In these cases, the clients will often need to follow up with home exercises that will help to reinforce the activation and keep the tight muscles relaxed. The process of Muscle Activation Techniques MAT enables the MAT practitioners to identify and correct muscle weaknesses that relate to the chronic muscle tightness issues that we see in our clients.

What is Muscle Activation Techniques (MAT)?

Muscle Activation Techniques (MAT) is a revolutionary approach involved in the assessment and correction of muscular imbalances that cause pain and injury.  MAT was developed by Greg Roskopf, a biomechanics consultant for the Denver Broncos and Utah Jazz.  Through years of study and practice, he developed what we today call “The Roskopf Principle”. This principle simply states that muscle tightness is a symptom of muscle weakness. This defining principle is what distinguishes MAT from other techniques aimed at relieving tension in muscles.  In contrast to other modalities, the MAT process improves the ability for muscles to contract, which in turn results in a decrease in the associated muscle tightness.

This non-invasive technique can be practiced by anyone working to improve the muscular system of any client that is looking for a better quality of life. Physical therapists, personal trainers, massage therapists, etc have all enjoyed successful careers practicing MAT as they work to improve their client's quality of life.