Should you stop exercising with muscle tightness?

Should you stop exercising with muscle tightness?

By Jackson McKellar 

Muscle tightness is an extremely controversial topic in the sports Physiotherapy world. You’ve probably heard of players in your favourite football team being ‘rested this week for tightness,’ or athlete’s pulling out of qualifying races due to ‘excessive tightness.’ But Why? What’s the risk? Is there a risk? Well, we’re going to try and break it down for you, and hopefully if you’re someone who suffers from muscle tightness regularly, we can steer you in the right direction.

Without going into too much detail, our muscles rest and work at optimal ‘lengths and tensions.’ They can be lengthened or stretched, and obviously contracted or shortened to produce the force we need to move. The hypothesis as to why muscles feel tight is because they’re sitting or resting in a ‘shortened’ position. What makes this assumption difficult to be true is that, not all ‘tight’ or shortened muscles are symptomatic (i.e. we don’t often feel anything) and also, some muscles refer into other areas of the body, meaning it may not be the muscle that you feel that’s ‘tight’ or shortened.

So, what’s the risk or is there a risk of continuing to train when we have that tight muscle feeling?

Well, the thought is, if the muscle can’t stretch as far as it needs to, then the tightness within the muscle will start to cause microdamage, or a muscle tear when exposed to exercise or force. This however isn’t always the case, and it’s very rare that a tight muscle in isolation goes on to develop into a tear. The warning sign for Physiotherapists is when this muscle ‘tightness’ also has underlying signs of reduced strength or weakness. This hints at the possibility of this muscle or muscles not being able to withstand the forces that we are asking of it in our activities. This can be hard for the individual to decipher, so what should you do?

If you’re noticing tightness throughout your activities or exercise, don’t put your Physiotherapist hat on, consult Dr. Google or worst take the see what happens mentality, give one of our Physiotherapists a call and we can see how we can help you in your situation. Our assessments can help rule out any risk, which will hopefully keep you doing the activities you love. Risk vs Reward is our mentality in managing these issues with our overall focus to keep you training and exercising as much as possible! We will always try to find out what you CAN DO, because we often find that the reward of keeping you doing something outweighs the risk.

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