I often here people tell me about how tight their necks are and how badly they ache and they tell me that they keep receiving back and neck massages and it only helps for a bit. I also hear a lot about tight legs. Many people complain of tight hamstrings and want to know how to best stretch them. First things first, we need to figure out if the muscle needs to be stretched in the first place. Many times muscles have a feeling of tight because the muscle is actually over stretched and pulled very tight which is causing the pain. So going deeper in to a stretch is actually furthering the pain and disfunction by stretching an over stretched muscle? So if this is the case then what is the answer? Well the answer with me is always screen the body to see what the overall movement looks like. I am a firm believer in the Functional Movement Screen developed by Physical Therapist and Strength Coach Gray Cook. The screen consists of Seven Movements that can help define whether there is a stability or mobility issue behind the tightness or poor movement. I will have a post on that soon!! But in general terms the site of aggravation or tightness is usually not the culprit but usually the symptom.
A perfect example are those that complain of having a tight neck and shoulders. They are constantly rubbing their neck and asking for neck rubs. Many time these symptoms are caused by muscles in the chest and neck that are “tight” or in shortened and contracted state that are pulling the shoulders forward. This in turn then puts the back of the neck and shoulders on a constant stretch which can then cause the pain. If you have been going to a massage therapist with these symptoms and they have not addressed your chest and front neck muscles then fire them immediately. Sounds harsh, but that is my opinion. Same thing if you are being told to stretch your shoulders and neck in ways that stretch the affected area. The goal is to stretch the chest and anterior neck muscles while strengthening the back muscles. Next time you are feeling that in pain in the neck actually look up at the ceiling and squeeze your shoulder blades together and see how it goes. One of my favorite stretches is called the Brettzel and the video link in below. Poor thoracic spine mobility is one of the biggest culprits of neck and back pain.
Another symptom I hear all the time is lower back tightness and stiffness. Many people give receive chiropractic care as well as massage therapy with limited or temporary success. I think both massage and chiropractic care are great and actually refer many of my clients to them. But if you are continually receiving treatments with no long term success it is crucial to start doing appropriate stretches and strengthening exercises. I see numerous people with lower back issues trying to “stretch” their lower back by reaching for the ground or trying to twist the lower back to feel a stretch it the area that hurts. This in many cases can make the situation worse. Many times the stiffness or tightness is coming from muscles in the legs that are pulling on the hips. In turn the muscles in the back are being over stretched and hence there are aches and pains. I could go on for pages on which muscles may be the root cause. But massaging or stretching the area of pain is NOT the answer most of the time!! After many of my screens on my clients I find that lower back tightness, stiffness, and mobility issues are really caused by the overactive and tight muscles in the front of the legs or hip flexors. Due to the fact that many people sit at desks and stare at computers all day are prime examples of how to get over tight hip flexors and over stretched neck and shoulder muscles. After watching the video below feel free to visit these other videos on opening up the T-spine.
If you have any further questions feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org.
As I should say only for legal implications, if you have chronic get cleared by a medical professional. A Chiropractor, Physical Therapist, or Doctor that won’t just give you drugs for your symptoms, but actually knows something about human movement, the nervous system, and soft tissue work. The credentials to look for in my opinion are FMS, SFMA, or a professional that also knows ART(Active Release Technique). As for the services that Evolution Tucson offers is based on Corrective Exercise meaning you should be cleared by a Doctor if you have any health issues or current injuries.
Danny Sawaya CSCS, RKC, CK-FMS