Have you ever woken up in the morning and stretched only to feel neck or shoulder pain? Every movement afterward sends pain shooting down your back, but why exactly does this happen? Read on to find out:
Why do muscles get stiff?
- Muscles require magnesium for them to relax, and calcium for them to contract. When the two are imbalanced, it can lead to muscle spasms and contractions.
• Dehydration is also a contributing factor to stiff muscles. This is because muscles are active tissues and require lots of water. The water contains electrolytes that help transfer orders from your nervous system to your muscles and back. Without enough water, muscles lose their ability to communicate with the brain.
• Inactivity is another culprit. Leaving your muscles in one state for a prolonged period (sleep or sitting in a chair for an extended period, for instance) can cause them to stiffen. Another cause of muscle stiffness is stress. When we’re stressed, our bodies tighten up in preparation for a “fight or flight” situation. Prolonged stress can lead to tightness in the muscles, resulting in strain.
• The biggest contributor to muscle pain of all is exercise. Muscles lose mass after a prolonged period of inactivity, so when you start training again, it leads to micro-tears that cause pain and stiffness.
How to treat stiff muscles
Exercising for 30 minutes each day (or every other day) can prevent most cases of muscle stiffness. Exercise keeps your muscles relaxed, and can even improve your mental state. Just don’t overdo it, because that’s when your muscles get stiff.
- Baking soda bath
Add 2-4 heaped tablespoons of baking soda to a hot bath and climb in for rapid muscular pain relief. You can even try replacing the baking soda with ¾ cup of Epsom salt if you wish to.
- Take supplements
Balance your magnesium and calcium levels by taking supplements, and consider making dietary changes.
- Massage therapy
Getting a good massage can work wonders for stiff muscles. A licensed masseuse will be able to relieve stiff muscles in a single session, sending you home pain-free and much more relaxed (consult your massage therapist regarding the best treatment for you).
- Heat application
Simply applying heat to muscles causes the tissue to expand and increase blood flow to the heated area. You can do this by taking a hot shower or massaging the stiff area with a heating pad.
- 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
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen, aspirin, or naproxen are your best choices. Do not exceed the recommended daily dosage or take them for more than a couple of days at a time.
- Make sure you’re hydrated
Drink water or isotonic drinks to keep your hydration and electrolytes at an adequate level. Men require 13 cups (3 liters) of water per day, while women need nine (2.2 liters).
Stretching your muscles when you wake up can prevent muscles from stiffening. It increases blood flow throughout your body, and prepares the muscles for the daily movements ahead.