The Three States Of A Muscle During Rest
Rest is when your muscles are not needing to do any work; neither moving your body/exercising nor tightening to hold you up when you’re sitting or standing (postural muscle tension).
1. The Normal Resting State Of A Muscle
The normal resting state of a muscle has a very low amount of contraction/tension. The muscle, even when it is resting, has a very small amount of tension in it.
2. Tight or Contracted Muscles During The Resting State
Tight or contracted muscles are muscles that have more tension in them than the normal very low amount of tension during the normal resting state. More tension in the muscle than the normal very low amount of tension when the muscle is resting (not active in movement, in exercise, or in posture) is not healthy.
Muscles being tight or contracted when you’re using them is perfectly healthy and needed. Muscles have to tighten for you to move. Movement can be walking, bending, gripping, reaching, turning, lifting and all of the forms of exercise.
3. Flaccid Muscles During The Resting State
Flaccid muscles are muscles that have less than the normal low amount of tension or contraction when the muscles are in a resting (non-active) state. An example of a flaccid muscle is when the muscle cannot contract/cannot do its job of moving your body. People who are bedridden and cannot move can have flaccid muscles. People who are paralyzed could have flaccid muscles. (There are two types of paralysis; flaccid paralysis and spastic paralysis). Flaccid muscles are much less common than normal and contracted muscles.
What Your Body Would Be Like If All Of Your Muscles Were In A Normal Resting State
Your body would able to do all of the yoga postures well and your muscles would not have any trigger points in them if the muscles in your body were all in a normal resting state. You know that your body is far from being able to all of the yoga postures well. And if you came in for a treatment you’d know that a lot of your muscles have trigger points in them.
Muscles Are Designed To Hold More Tension Than The Normal Resting State Of Tension
Your muscles are designed to hold more tension than the normal resting state, and be able to function well and function pain free.
If your muscles are holding too much excessive tension, then they are beyond their ability to function well and function pain free. This excessive state of tension in your muscles will give you pain, stiffness and limitation in activity or even when your muscles are resting.
Muscles Move Bones. Joints Are Where Two Bones Meet.
When muscles contract, they move the bones in your body at the joints. A joint is where two bones touch each other and where movement occurs. If your biceps muscle contracts, then your forearm comes closer to your upper arm (two bones moving). If your triceps muscle contracts, then your forearm is moved further away from your upper arm.
The result of muscles contracting/tightening is that the bones of your body will move. If the muscles tighten a lot, then your bones will obviously move.
If your muscles are tight or contracted during the resting state instead of your bones obviously moving your joints (like the biceps moving the forearm), your joints will be compressed and/or misaligned from the continuous excessive muscle tension. The amount of this tension and the length of time of this excessive tension (state #2 above) will determine how much stress and pressure and dysfunction and pain develops in the joints.
What Happens When Your Muscles Are Overly Tight/Contracted In A Resting State
I began this page by listing the three states of a muscle during rest. The second state is a tight/contracted muscle during rest. When your muscle are tight or contracted in a resting state, the following happens:
1. When your muscles are in a contracted state they’re burning more energy and using more oxygen and creating more waste products than if the muscles were in a normal resting state.
2. The constant contraction in the muscles puts strain on the muscles and on the tendons.
3. The longer and the tighter that your muscles are in a contracted state, the weaker your muscles become. I’ll explain more about this important point in the next section.
4. The overly tight muscles are pulling on the bones to some degree; the tighter the muscles are, the more that they’re pulling on the bones.
5. This constant pulling on the bones puts compression/pressure in the joints, and can cause joint pain and problems.
6. When your joints are stressed/compressed/misaligned this can cause nerves to be pinched. The nerves in your neck going down to your arms can be pinched if the small bones in your neck are being pulled from their proper position and are being compressed together. The nerves in your elbow or in your wrist (one of the causes of carpal tunnel) can be pinched if the bones are compressed together causing pressure on the nerves. The nerves in your back can be pinched when the bones are compressed or shifted in their position; one form of this nerve pressure is sciatica.
7. Compressed/stressed/misaligned joints in your spine can cause your discs to be compressed/stressed/irritated. Briefly: I’ve never found a disc that was inflamed, irritated, bulging, herniated or ruptured where there was a normal resting state of tension in the muscles in the area. The muscles are always very overly tight in the area of the disc problem. It’s this large amount of tension in the muscles that continues to put a compressive, irritating pressure on the disc. The disc responds to excessive muscle tension by becoming even more irritated/inflamed. I’ve always found that releasing excessive tension in the muscles that are causing extra pressure in the discs to be a very effective way to heal disc problems.
The Longer Your Muscles Are In A Contracted State (Rather Than A Resting State), The Weaker Your Muscles Become
The longer your muscles are tight, the weaker they’re becoming. If you were to keep your fist tight for fifteen seconds and I tried to pry your fingers apart, it would be hard for me to do this. If you keep your fist tight for fifteen minutes, then it would be much easier for me to pry your fingers apart.
When you have muscle contraction/tension in the same muscles for years or for decades (during the resting state) these muscles become weak; no matter how much exercise you do. Usually this tension and weakness develops slowly. Much of this slow accumulation of tension is without obvious symptoms. When this excessive tension becomes so excessive over time, then the muscles will develop pain and be obviously weak. The longer and tighter the muscles are, the faster they become painful and weak.
Muscles During Exercise And Muscles During Rest
Muscles during exercise or movement are contracting/tightening. This is normal and healthy.
It’s not normal or healthy for muscles to be in an overly tightened state when that muscle is not being used for movement, for exercise, or for posture. The normal state of a muscle is a low level of contraction; not overly tightened.
Muscles and Exercise
Exercise works by tightening/contracting muscles. During the time of exercise your muscles can feel more loose and your body can feel more flexible. This increased looseness and flexibility is because you’re pumping extra blood to the area. The extra blood is warming up the muscles. The muscles will be softer and you’ll be more flexible because of the extra blood flow. Once that extra blood flow leaves, the extra softness of the muscles can also leave. The end result of exercise can be that you’re left with muscles that are tighter because of the exercise; even though during the exercise the muscles felt looser.
If the amount of exercise is healthy for your body, then your muscles won’t acquire more overall tension from the exercise, and your muscles will be healthier and stronger from the exercise. If the result of the exercise is that your muscles have acquired more tension, then you’re going to have more pain or stiffness because of the exercise even though the muscles felt softer (because of the increased blood flow) during exercise.
Muscles and Aging
If you look at people in their later years you’ll see them being stiff. Many people think that this is just the result of aging. Stiffness is the result of aging if your muscles are in an overly tight resting state throughout your life.
It’s not inevitable that you need to become an old stiff person. Many people want to keep active, to exercise, and to not get weak as they age. Exercise is great; if you do the right amount. Many people will continue to exercise as they age. If they don’t do enough to get the excess tension out of their muscles (when the muscles are in a resting state), then they’ll become an old stiff person; no matter how much exercise they do.
The two best ways that I know of to get excess tension out of the muscles is trigger point therapy and stretching. How much time have you given to stretching throughout your life? If you don’t want to get stiff, then stretch. How much time have you taken for specific self massage to your muscles (trigger point self massage)?
The percentage of body weight that is muscle is between 38% and 54% for men and between 28% and 39% for the women. This usually depends on both the age and the physical activity level.
Take good care of your muscles and your muscles will work well for you throughout your life. Exercise enough to have strength and lessen excessive tension in your muscles through specific self massage and through stretching. You’ll move easier, be stronger and feel healthier.