Muscles Feeling Tight? Here Are Some Methods of Relief

Tight muscles are a pain, literally.

But they're a fact of life for many of us. It doesn't matter whether you're a carpenter, an exercise nut, a homemaker or an office worker, you've felt the twinges related to tightness.

What can you do to get rid of them?

I posed that question to a couple of massage therapists in the Richmond, Va. area, one of whom also has been practicing yoga for 35 years. They shared some helpful tips, some of which involve massage and some of which don't.

Janet Leong, a massage therapist for 20-plus years who's been practicing yoga for even longer, said the key to relief is finding your "trigger points," which often are not located near the pain.

"You may feel pain in your knee, but the trigger point may be in your thigh," she said. A muscle that has knotted up in one area can cause discomfort in another.

Massage can help identify those trigger points and work to release the tension.

If you can't afford a massage, you might be able to do simple trigger-point release techniques on your own.

For instance, Leong said, many computer users suffer pain in their hands and wrists. The pain might be linked to a trigger point in the neck or upper back, which can be stretched by pulling down the back of the head, so the chin rests on the chest, and pushing up the head to form some resistance in the stretch.

One of the biggest causes of muscle tightness is stress. "Emotional stress causes muscle tension," Leong said. Everyone would be smart to practice yoga breathing -- taking deep breaths that fill the diaphragm and make the tummy puff out -- whenever stress arises, Leong says. Leong combines her certification in acupuncture with her knowledge in massage and yoga to help people release tensions and escape pain. (By the way, the 53-year-old mother of two also has a second-degree black belt in martial arts.) "When the tension is released from the body, the body feels much lighter. You have more energy," Leong said. DC Ashburn, owner and director of the Richmond Academy of Massage, agreed that there are plenty of things people can do to prevent and treat tight muscles. "Exercise tightens the muscles," he said. "Those muscles then need to be stretched back out." If you're planning a long run or bike ride, build in time for stretching afterward, he said. If you can, keep those muscles warm while you stretch. "It's always good to have a Jacuzzi available. It flushes all the toxins," Ashburn said. If you don't have access to a Jacuzzi, a hot bath or shower will help, too. "Another thing people aren't doing is drinking enough water," Ashburn said. A good rule of thumb is to halve your body weight and use that number as a guide for how many ounces of water you should drink daily.
"And if you have a heavy workout where you're sweating a lot, you need to add even more," Ashburn said. On Your OwnJanet Leong (804-986-5153) and DC Ashburn (804-282-5003), local massage therapists, offer these do-it-yourself techniques for releasing tight muscles. Check with your doctor before you begin. Back: Use a tennis ball (or any similar ball) wedged between you and the wall to rub out tight points in the back along the scapula, or shoulder blade.  Sciatica: A tennis ball also can relieve sciatica if placed on the upper glute and rubbed against a wall.  Computer users: For pain associated with computer use, pull your head down with your hands on top of your head, then try to push your head back up, creating resistance and a better stretch.  Staying put: Another good stretch for computer users, truck drivers and anyone else who stays in the same position for a long time is to stand in an open doorway and put your hands above your head on the door frame. Then lean forward, so your chest muscles stretch. Try to reach a little higher each time you stretch. Want a Massage? DC Ashburn, owner of the Richmond Academy of Massage, said a little research goes a long way. Here's what you should know about massage therapy:Check references: Find a massage therapist with a good reputation.  
Call the therapist: "If a person doesn't have time to talk to you before you make an appointment, you probably don't want to go to that person," Ashburn said.  Expect to pay: Hour-long massages in the Richmond area -- and most places across the U.S. -- generally cost $50 to $90.  Pick your place: Massage therapists work everywhere from private homes to fancy spas. Often, you'll pay extra for added ambience, Ashburn said. Maria Howard is a group exercise instructor for the YMCA of Greater Richmond. Her column runs every other week in Sunday Flair. Contact her at Source:Richmond Times-Dispatch. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. Powered by Yellowbrix.
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