Have you ever woken up in the morning and stretched, only to feel your neck or shoulder (or both) become stiff and painful? Suddenly, every movement hurts, and you can’t turn your head without pain shooting down through your back. So why on earth does this happen?
Why do muscles get stiff?
In order to relax, muscles require magnesium, and for them to contract they require calcium. When the two are imbalanced, it can lead to muscle spasms and contractions.
Dehydration can also lead to stiff muscles. Muscles are active tissues, which is the kind of tissue that requires the most water in the body. The water contains electrolytes that help transfer orders from your nerve-system to your muscles and back. Without enough water in the muscles, they lose the ability to communicate with the brain.
Inactivity is another culprit; leaving your muscles in one state for a prolonged period (sleep, sitting in a chair for an extended period, etc.) can cause them to stiffen.
Another cause can be related to stress; when we’re in a state of stress, our bodies tighten up as preparation for a “fight or flight” situation. Prolonged stress can lead to a person maintaining a tight posture, resulting in strain on the muscles.
The final cause of muscular pain is also the most common one. After a prolonged state of inactivity, the muscles lose mass, and exercising them leads to micro-tears, which cause muscle pain and stiffness.
How to treat stiff muscles
- Exercise – adding a set of exercises for 30 minutes every day (or every other day) can prevent most cases of muscle stiffness. Exercise keeps your muscles relaxed, and can even improve your mental state.
- Soda bath – A variation of heat application involves adding 2-4 heaping tablespoons of baking soda to a hot bath, guaranteed to ease your muscles almost immediately. You can replace the soda with a ¾ cup of Epsom salt to calm your mind.
- Take supplements – Balance your magnesium/calcium levels, and consider adjusting your diet to a healthier one.
- Massage therapy – Getting a good massage can work wonders for a stiff muscle. A licensed masseuse will be able to relieve stiff muscles within a session, sending you home pain-free and much more relaxed. (Consult with your massage therapist about the best treatment)
- Heat application – Heat causes tissues to expand and increases the blood flow in the heated area. A good shower can also help you relax, making it easier for the muscles to loosen as well. If you have a heating pad, warm it up and apply it to the stiff area.
- Relax & meditate – Calm yourself down. By reducing the level of stress in your life, your body will relax as well, reducing the likelihood of tight and stiff muscles.
- Take an NSAID – Non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen, aspirin, or naproxen is your best choices. Do not exceed the daily dosage or use it for more than a couple of days.
- Make sure you’re hydrated – drink water or isotonic drinks (such as “Gatorade”). Keeping your hydration and electrolytes levels in check. Men require 13 cups (3 liters) of water per day, while women need 9 cups (2.2 liters).
- Stretch – stretching your muscles when you wake up and after a few hours of inactivity can prevent muscles from stiffening. It increases blood flow throughout your body, and prepares the muscles for the daily movements.