How to deal with muscle contracture

Are you often troubled by unpleasant tension, tension and even pain in the muscles? Do you have a problem performing specific movement? Do you feel tension and you feel like your muscles could tear any moment? Do these problems restrict you? You are not able to do exercises in full range? Your muscles just won’t let you pass? You are most likely suffering from muscle contracture.

Basic functions of the muscles is to shorten and consequently relax back into the original length. During shortening the muscle continues to do its function. Long-term activity results in tiredness, during which the muscle gets contracted and they are hardly relieved, until they are permanently shortened and stiff. Shortened muscles have a negative effect on the whole body.

Under the term muscle contraction we understand a condition, which for various causes leads to contracture. The muscle is shorter than normally and during passive stretching it doesn’t let you to stretch in full movement range of the joint. Contracture also restricts the nutrition supply, which can lead to formation of trigger points.

CLProtazeniWHICH MUSCLES ARE USUALLY CONTRACTED?

Natural inclination to contracture have muscles with postural function, is those that are involved in keeping a straight body posture:

  • Calf muscle
  • Flexors of the knee and hips
  • Spinal erectors
  • Chest muscles
  • Shoulder blade lifters
  • Flexors and short erectors of the neck

Timely detection of the problem can:

  • Prevent formation of muscle imbalance and asymmetry , formation of functional or even structural changes in the musculoskeletal system.
  • Choosing ideal compensational exercises based on diagnosis results.
  • Decreasing the level of muscle imbalance during one-sided burden.

HOW TO FIND OUT YOU HAVE SHORTENED MUSCLES?

From a standing position try to bend in your back as much as you can with your knees stretched. Try to pull your hands towards the ground. Ideal is when we are in a position where we can reach our toes. If you are not able to do that, and you feel tension in your lower back or in the back of your knees, there is a high possibility that you have shortened muscles, and you should keep stretching and relax them. If you can reach the ground with your whole palms, the muscles are relaxed a bit too much, and it would be ideal to strengthen them.

Stretching Buttocks

HOW DOES PHYSIOTHERAPY HELP WITH SHORTENED MUSCLES?

  • Radial shock wave therapy - acoustic waves have a positive effect on: lowering the tension in the muscle, increased metabolism and blood supply.
  • Post-isometric relaxation (PIR) - using the moment for relieving isometric contraction (shortening, shrinking) of the muscle to stretch it.
  • Reciprocal inhibition - using the activation of the muscles, which have naturally opposite function than muscles which we want to stretch, so we will reflexively relax it.
  • Heat - increases blood supply and lowers muscle tension.
  • Stretching - stretching the contracted parts.

BASIC TYPES OF STRETCHING:

  • Static: muscle is stretched till the edge and it is recommended to stay in such position for 30-60 seconds.
  • Dynamic: abrupt movement exercise, with intention to get beyond the line of possible stretch. It is not recommended because of the risk of formation of micro-scars in the muscles.
  • Passive: stretching is done with aid of a second person or with the weight of your own body.

EXAMPLE OF HOW TO RELIEVE CONTRACTED MUSCLES:

Calf muscle:

  • rest your forefoot against a wall
  • stretch your knee
  • push your pelvis towards the wall

Another variation is to perform this exercise to stretch your calves and Achilles tendon

stretching the calf

Knee flexors:

  • Place your leg on an elevated surface
  • Direct your pelvis forwards and hip towards the side of the stretched leg
  • Pull your toes up
  • Keep your trunk straight and move it closer to the knee

Hip flexors:

  • Do a lunge
  • Keep one leg in front of yourself, and slightly bent in the knee
  • Keep your other leg back and stretched, leaning on the forefoot
  • Direct your pelvis forwards and try to pull your tailbone down

Spinal erector of the lumbar spine:

  • Lay down on your back, bend your knees and press them towards your chest
  • With inhale push
  • your knees against your hands, and with exhale pull the knees with your hands even closer towards your trunk

relaxing lower back

Chest muscles:

  • Lay on the edge of your bed, so that your arm would hang down in your shoulder
  • With inhale lift up your arm in a small range, with exhale completely relax and drop your arm down again

stretching chest

Levator scapulae muscles:

  • Sit on one of your hands
  • Straighten up
  • Place your second hand on your head in the level of your ears, and bow your head to the side, and breathe freely
  • After sufficient stretching, move your head towards your armpits, and again lightly use your hand to extend the stretch.

stretching neck



Author:
FYZIOklinika physiotherapy Ltd., Prague, Czech Republic
Source: Clinical experience in private practice and physiotherapeutic field, FYZIOklinika

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