Do you wake up stiff and tight and walk around like your muscles have lost all their elastic and joints have lost their lubrication – and feel just a little bit like the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz? Why does this happen? Is it normal? Photo / File
We can often feel tight or stiff after a good workout or exercise session. And that's quite normal. During exercise, muscles and fascia have been stressed to the point where fibres tear – which is what needs to happen for the muscle or fascia to then regenerate itself in an even stronger form to be able to withstand the same physical stimulus again.
Further, when parts of our body are worked hard, it's quite normal for those parts to feel a little tired the next day – it's our body's way of telling us it needs to rest a bit more today, so it can overcome what was asked of it the day before.
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But what about the tightness or restrictions we feel that seem to be there all the time? The ones that seem to sneak up on us and then poke and niggle away to the point of becoming annoying and frustrating.
The ones that don't seem to have any particular reason for being present - there was no injury or event that seemed to precede their existence. But yet they persist and alter the ways we go about our day-to-day life because their presence means we must compensate by using our body in different ways.
And then there are those areas of our body that we really dislike our massage therapist putting thumbs into because we know it's going to be a tad uncomfortable or unpleasant. Those parts of us seem to inexplicably be there too. Why do we have knots and bumps? Where do they come from?
And there's also the fact that we can so often wake up stiff and tight and walk around like our muscles have lost all their elastic and our joints have lost their lubrication – and feel just a little bit like the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz. We get out of bed in the morning feeling 20 years older than we are, day in and day out. Why does this happen? Is it normal?
These experiences aren't normal. They might be becoming more and more common but we shouldn't accept them as normal, and nor should it ever be deemed a sign of aging too. Remember that any symptom our body expresses to us is trying to tell us something.
The best and most empowering thing here is that when we know there is a symptom of some description in our body, there are ways in which we can deal with it. It's a chance for us to try to get know our bodies on a more intimate level, and to investigate the reasons it could be feeling that way. Because there will be a reason, and you will and do have the power to change that.
Movement and health intimately linked
The tightness we have, pain we feel, restrictions we are constantly aware of - they're a sign that our body has laid down what is known as "fibrotic" tissue. Fibrosis is what happens when a scar is laid down – scars are fibrotic tissue.
And we know that scars appear and act slightly differently to normal skin or tissue - they're thicker, less malleable, and less elastic. And they can often make the areas of skin or body parts around them feel a bit more restricted too.
But if we feel that tightness or tension long-term, when we have that constant feeling of stiffness or restriction, this can be from fibrotic adhesions laying themselves down in our body tissues.
What does this mean and how does it happen? Just like scarring is a part of the healing process and follows inflammation to an injured site on the body, fibrotic tissue is produced as a response to systemic inflammation (aka stresses, emotions, illness, poor foods, postural distortions, toxins, drugs/meds etc).
And it lays this down wherever it pleases. The body thinks it needs to get stronger - to overcome the inflammation - and by thickening the tissue it does get stronger. But it also loses its elasticity. And that's how and why we can feel tight and restricted.
But the story grows. Because our restricted body means a smaller range of motion. And a smaller range of motion affects our nervous system in such a way that it then sends less power to our vital organs. The less mobile we are, the less our body is able to send critical supplies and energy to the very parts of our body that keep us alive.
That's why it's important to address the whole body as one system - we need to break down and mobilise tightened and restricted tissue but we also need to try to understand why it's there. So that we can break the cycle.
Happy bodies are understood and addressed three-dimensionally. We are one global and interconnected unit and must be addressed this way if we're to ever get on top of chronic pain and disease.
• Corinne Austin is a Northland health and movement coach (www.fitfix.co.nz).