Muscle tension refers to the condition in which the body muscles are contracted for a long period of time. Muscle tension typically results from the physiological effects of stress and can lead to episodes of back pain. You can find more information below.
What is muscle tension?
Muscle tension, also known as muscle stiffness , is one of the most common causes of muscle pain. Muscles do not relax normally. This condition can affect any muscle in the body and cause a sharp pain (such as a backache) that makes it difficult to move.
What causes muscle tension?
You have muscles all over your body. When you need to move a certain part of your body, your brain sends a nerve signal to the muscles in that body part. This causes the muscles to contract or move.
Depending on the type of signal the brain sends, the muscles contract a little or a lot. After the contraction, the muscles relax until the next time you need to use them.
Muscle stiffness or tightness occurs when a muscle or a group of muscles contracts or partially contracts over a long period of time. The brain continues to send nerve signals that tell the muscle to contract even when it is no longer needed for movement.
This can sometimes take several hours or days. The longer your muscle contracts, the more pain you will feel. If the muscles in our back are tense, it can also manifest as back pain while breathing.
Related article: Back pain when breathing
Muscle stiffness is often triggered by stress. Stress can negatively affect your body’s nervous system – including your nerves – and how it functions.
Your nervous system can respond to stress by putting additional pressure on blood vessels, resulting in reduced blood flow to the muscles. This can cause muscle tension and pain.
Some medications, such as statins, can also cause muscle tension. Certain medical conditions such as Parkinson’s disease , ALS disease , fibromyalgia, lupus disease can also contribute to it.
When to see a doctor for muscle tension?
If you know your muscle stiffness is caused by a minor injury, stress, or overuse, you can usually treat it effectively at home. However, if you suspect that your muscle stiffness is caused by a serious injury or an undiagnosed condition, you should see a doctor.
You should contact your doctor if your muscle tension does not go away within a week or is accompanied by any of the following:
- Started after a tick bite
- If you have an unexplained rash
- If the muscles are red and swollen
- If you have an increase in the dosage of your medications or a change in medication
If you experience muscle stiffness along with any of the following symptoms, call 911 or go to the emergency room right away:
- difficulty breathing
- severe muscle weakness
- High fever
- stiff neck
How is the cause of muscle tension diagnosed?
To diagnose muscle strain, your doctor will first ask for your medical history and perform a physical exam. They may also perform laboratory tests to look for muscle damage and rule out any possible underlying conditions that may be causing muscle stiffness.
These tests may include:
- blood tests that can help your doctor check for muscle damage and the presence of certain autoimmune disorders that can cause stiffness
- MRI and CT scans, which can reveal any bone abnormalities that may be causing nerve compression
- electromyogram , which can help your doctor evaluate how well the muscles and nerves are working
- Ultrasound , which can help your doctor find if there is inflammation in the muscle fibers
How is muscle tension treated?
The main goal of treatment is to encourage the muscles to relax. The specific treatment used for muscle stiffness may vary depending on the cause.
You will need medical treatment for any serious injury or underlying health conditions that can cause muscle stiffness. Treatment will first address the condition or injury and then the muscle stiffness.
Depending on the specific cause of your muscle stiffness, medical treatment may include surgery, medication, and physical therapy. You and your doctor can discuss which treatment is best for you.
What is good for muscle tension?
Home remedies are often effective in treating muscle stiffness caused by minor injuries, stress or overuse. You can try the following:
- You can relax the muscles by using a warm compress or a heating pad.
- You can gently stretch your stiff muscle to aid relaxation.
- You can avoid strenuous activities that can trigger the muscle to harden again.
- You can encourage the muscles to relax using massage, yoga, or tai chi.