A few of the reasons muscles tighten are:
PAIN: Pain is an indication that there is an underlying problem. When there is pain involved, muscles will spasm and tighten up as a protection and stability mechanism. Before splints and braces were invented, the body relied on muscle spasm to protect and stabilize an injury.
ADHESIONS: An adhesion is an area in a muscle where the connective tissue that is meant to allow smooth motion to occur is sticking to other layers of connective tissue. These adhesions restrict the normal motion of muscle and don’t allow them to lengthen.
NERVE ENTRAPMENTS: A nerve entrapment can occur is an adhesion forms next to a nerve and doesn’t permit it to move freely. Nerves don’t stretch, so when they are stuck to a muscle, the muscles surrounding the nerve will spasm in an attempt to stop the nerve from pulling.
TRIGGER POINTS: When multiple adhesions form in a muscle, the accumulation of these adhesions forms a knot. When the muscle can no longer compensate for the knot, it starts to refer pain in a pattern specific to the involved muscle. In general, a trigger point is a knot that is starting to refer pain. Because pain is involved, muscles will tighten/spasm to protect the area.
As stated above, stretching is beneficial when used in conjunction with other techniques. A common goal when dealing with an injury to soft tissue is breaking up the connective tissue that is forming adhesions. Once these adhesions are removed, stretching can then be performed to help lengthen the freed tissue. Exercise is also recommended so the new connective tissue being laid down can be set in the correct formation based on how a muscle will be used.
Particular types of stretching are best used for specific muscle injuries. Dr. Erik is certified in many types of stretching and can provide the best stretch that your injury needs.