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What Causes Muscle Tension?

Muscle Tension

Muscle tension is the result of holding your muscles in a particular position for an extended period of time. When your muscles contract and refuse to release (like when you scrunch your shoulders due to stress), blood flow becomes restricted and creates abnormal tension in the tissues, nerves, and tendons. This tension can even pull on other attachment points of the muscle, which only adds to the pain you might experience.

We all have muscle tension to some extent— it’s a necessity for our bodies to work correctly. But too much muscle tension, especially when it is prolonged and simply won’t go away, is more often than not a sign of chronic stress or overuse. Muscle tension is your body’s physical way of telling you that something is wrong! Don’t let your muscle tension go unaddressed—your body will thank you for it.

Why Massage Therapy Eases Muscle Tension

Have you ever reached up to rub your own shoulder or neck when it feels tight? Even those few minutes of holding, pressing, or massaging feel good because you are interrupting the muscle’s current clenched state with pressure. Massage therapy helps with the muscle tension by persuading the muscle to relax and reviving the circulation in that area.

A massage therapist might use many techniques to help your muscles relax, such as trigger point therapy and myofascial release. Because the body is one big, connected machine, it is seldom as simple as massaging one muscle. The fascia and muscles surrounding the area might also need to be addressed in order to get the extended relief your body needs. The amount of time it takes to get a muscle to relax with massage varies. It can take just a few minutes, but if it is a chronic problem it may take more than one session.

As a massage therapist who gives hundreds of massages a year, I can locate tight muscles quickly by palpating the area. The best way to know which area of muscle tension I should address, however, is by the client telling me exactly how they feel. The complaints someone mentions before a session gives me direction as to which muscles might need more focused attention.

Tips for Massaging Out Your Own Muscle Tension

Work the entire muscle, spending extra time on sore spots. For instance, if your bicep is tight from lifting, work the attachments at the shoulder and the elbow, as well as the body of the muscle using compression and/or cross fiber.

Other Ways to Avoid Muscle Tension

Movement! Staying active with walking, stretching, and yoga maintain good circulation throughout the muscles and can prevent you from holding tension in certain parts of your body. So if you start to feel tension building in your neck, lower back or shoulders while sitting at your desk at work, take a 5 minute break to walk around the office or stand up and stretch.

Hydration! Your body is over 50% water, so it makes sense that your muscles need it to stay healthy, hydrated, and pliable.

Feeling Tense?

If you have a persistent tension in a particular area, such as in your neck or shoulders, you should address it as soon as possible. If you don’t find a way to relieve it, chronic tension can lead to other issues such as carpal tunnel syndrome or knee pain. If your muscle tension is a result of chronic stress, dealing with the physical discomfort you’re experiencing now will help stave off other major health issues, like heart attack and stroke, later.


I offer a wide variety of massage therapy services that will locate the source of your tension and gently ease it until it has melted away.

Suzanne Schaper

Suzanne Schaper is a Board Certified Massage Therapist in Overland Park, KS. She loves nothing more that sharing her knowledge for health and wellness with her clientele. "A life free of pain and disease is a more full life." Suzanne enjoys assisting her clients in their pursuit of health and happiness.

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