When we do not feel safe, our minds instruct our muscles to contract. Basically, all muscles in the body are at a heightened state of arousal (not necessarily sexually) and this is a way for us to be more reactive in the need to fight or flight (think: battle or be able to run like hell).
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However, as most of us guard (hold our muscles tight) during our daily lives when mental or emotional stress arises. Yet in our modern world, we do not have the physical release of our muscles because we miss out on the action of fighting or fleeing. Muscle pain and dysfunctional movement patterns can develop. Most people who guard also have a heightened startle reflex and are jumpy at the slightest input.
The problem with muscle guarding is that muscles are made to move, to stretch and contract, and not to be held statically (think stagnant water). When held in an isometric position (a mantained muscle contraction without movement), muscles build up metabolic wastes, have higher levels acidity and lower levels of oxygen.
This keeps the muscle fibers in a contraction, as oxygen is needed on a chemical level for relaxation (think rigor mortis in the living). Tissues become toxic and painful, increasing the inflammatory process in an attempt for healing/recovery, which can then become a vicious cycle of dysfunction.
On the other hand, by moving our muscles without fighting against ourselves, we can help to maintain normalized amounts of oxygen levels, a neutral pH, as well as improved strength and flexibility.
Strategies that can help reduce excessive muscle tension;
– Movement: running, yoga, swimming, martial arts, even just walking as exercise
– Stress reduction strategies
– Sex with a trusted partner
– Massage Therapy
– Chiropractic Work
– Physical Therapy and Dry Needling
– Counseling including Hypnotherapy
– Increased attention to posture and how you move your body. Are you raising your shoulders when you don’t need to, or in standing do you clench your buttocks?
Choose from the strategies above to see what works for you. I find that I need most of the above to help me to get rid of excessive muscle tension, some work directly (dry needling, therapeutic massage) than others (journaling, writing), but I find that each strategy when used properly can have a cumulative effect in improving my overall sense of well being.
See The Body for similar posts.