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Chronic tension in the muscles

Many patients complain of chronic (long term) tension. That uneasy feeling of “tightness” and rigidity of the muscles. The most common area that people suffer this problem is around the neck and into the shoulders. It can cause a lot of pain and dysfunction so this article is aimed at shining a light on what some of the underlying causes of chronic muscle tension are.

Chronic tension and aching in the muscles is draining. It saps the life out of you and leads to poor sleep habits, tiredness during the day and plain old grumpiness. It doesn’t have to be this way, there is help available if you choose to take it!

People will generally believe that tension in the muscles is due a lack of stretching. This is not the case. You could stretch all day, every day, but if you have already developed a problem, it wont fix it. Although stretching can play a useful role in maintaining healthy muscles, chronic tension and pain is never part of a normal life.

Chronic tension is a protective mechanism. The human body is smart and will work hard to protect you from your worst enemy – you. Your brain is contracting the muscles to prevent movement of the area that is either just about to be injured, or has already become damaged. It’s a little bit like when you sprain your ankle, the brain will protect you from doing anything silly like putting weight on it to prevent further damage. It does this by giving you quite obvious pain signals every time you try to take a step. Likewise tension and pain in the muscles is a warning sign that you are injured.

The underlying problems that may underpin your chronic tightness are many. But there are a distinct few which are far more common than others which I’ll list below.

  1. Adhesion – this is scar tissue that can build up within the tissues and restricts normal motion. Ever have those tight spots that never get any looser from rubbing them? That’s likely to be adhesion.
  2. Intervertebral disc injuries – the discs are cartilage structures that live between the vertebrae and damage to them is a major source of tension.
  3. Nerve entrapments – this is where nerves become trapped (most often by adhesion) and can cause muscle tension, pain, numbness and tingling or even weakness!
  4. Muscle weakness – generalised or specific muscle weakness.
  5. Referred pain – a massively underdiagnosed and ignored source of chronic tension. This is a tricky one because referred pain will often present like shoulder tension but really there is nothing wrong with the muscles around the shoulders or upper back. The unpleasant sensation is coming from elsewhere!


So there you have it! A list of problems that are often underlying a case of “chronic tension”. The main culprits are adhesion, nerve entrapments, disc injuries and muscle weakness – All of which can be fixed or addressed!

If you have been suffering with long standing tension anywhere in the body, it’s not normal. It’s a sure fire sign that you problem. We help guide people who have recognised that they have a problem and show them strategies that work to reduce or eliminate their tension, increase their mobility and get back to living a life without chronic pain.


Pain free & functional = The way life was meant to be :)

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