Muscle Stiffness - Part II

By Coach Dave

Techniques for release

For each type of muscle stiffness, there are different treatments (there is no magic one-fits-all treatment).

For muscle anatomy, unfortunately these are the cards you have been dealt, and there is no treatment. Instead, realize that these shorter muscles can in fact be a blessing and put you at a greater advantage for certain tasks (tight, short muscles are good for explosive athletes). Stay within your range of motion and use different techniques for tasks that would require a greater range of motion - your coach can help you figure this out!

Unlike the mechanism above, neural tension can be treated. Nerves can stick to various tissues (your muscles and other tissues are wet, and thus can have adhesive properties). To relieve this, you can move the nerve back and forth through a range of motion. This technique is called nerve flossing. It is important to do correctly, in order to get the best effect (ask a coach). It is important to note that some forms of neural tension can stem from your spine via a disc bulge, herniation or narrowing of the bone in which your nerves exit your spinal cord. You should NOT nerve floss until the root cause is dealt with by a chiropractor.

You can reduce muscle hypertonicity a number of ways based on its cause. If this is due to excessive use, you must learn to rest those muscles away from your job/sport. Try to do the opposite of what you do at work (if you sit all day, stand or walk around as much as possible away from work). With a hypertonic muscle, static stretching may be beneficial, but must be done a great amount (for durations much longer than 30 seconds, and frequently throughout the day). Soft tissue therapy from a physio, massage therapist or chiropractor can also help relieve tension. I choose this over foam rolling, because in a chronic case, foam rolling is not effective enough in reducing tension. Various adjustments from a specialist can also reset muscle length and reduce tension (this is not limited to spinal adjustments from a chiro).

Finally, the issue most will have: fascia tightness/tenderness. Soft tissue work can do wonders. If you chose to foam roll, use a lacrosse ball instead of a roller. If it doesn't feel awful, then it likely isn't working (a harsh reality for us all, I know). Soft tissue work can be performed by anyone so ask a coach who is trained in the techniques if you ever need work done.


Keep in mind that each mechanism for muscle stiffness is different, which means treatment will be different for each one. Stretching a muscle can, in some cases, make the symptoms and issues worse. If you need help or are unsure, ask a professional, as we are always there to help!

Performance tidbits

I can't leave you without a word on performance. Here is a little performance hack if you are an athlete that requires explosive performance (hockey, soccer, football, rugby, figure skating, the list goes on). Fascia is a very stubborn tissue, and tends to return to its original shape, and then some. About 90 minutes before a game or event, perform some static stretches for the muscles you will use (quads, hamstrings, glutes, calves, etc.) for about 15 minutes total. After about 30 minutes, your fascia will shrink and become extra tight. Before your event preparation, do your normal dynamic warm-ups. This shrinking of your fascia will actually make your muscles more springy and explosive, requiring less muscle forces to produce greater power. Isn't that neat?