Among the most common complaints, muscle tension results from hunching over our laptops, as well as gym-induced wear and tear in our attempts to counteract too much sitting. The stress and anxiety of hectic modern life can further exacerbate the feeling of tightness. In addition to finding a solution to ease physical rigidity, the more we can unwind in general, the more tense parts of the body will ease.
A day spent at our desks does no favours for neck and back pain. Poor posture and slumping over devices cause neck tension, leading to headaches, and eventually fatigue and frustration. When we are stressed, it can cause our breathing patterns to change which can strain the mid-back, while sitting for long periods of time builds tension in the lower back.
Stress activates the release of adrenaline, which spikes our blood pressure, and along with the stress hormone cortisol. This triggers our fight or flight system, calling our muscles to naturally contract, a physiological response to the danger signal emitted by our brain and body. However, when this becomes activated daily due to anxiety, the muscles contract unnecessarily over an extended period of time, leading to chronic discomfort and reduced mobility.
Here are a few ways to relax our muscles and mind:
Hot shower or bath - Warm water is a great way to soothe tense muscles, often providing instant relief. A bath is better still, if you have access to one, for its ability to induce deep relaxation. You could add in Epsom salts, light candles, play music and turn it into your own makeshift spa.
Yoga and stretching - Elongating the muscles can help them feel less tight, and the meditative element of yoga can elevate the experience by strengthening the mind-body connection to induce calm physically and mentally.
Tip for Stretching:
Only stretch to the point of gentle tension, never to the point of pain.
Hold the stretch for 10-30 seconds, and try to avoid bouncing
Breathe slowly and deeply
Massage - Booking in time at the spa addresses physical tension, as a skilled therapist will be able to identify which areas of the body require particular attention and focus on working the knots out. The tranquillity of the experience can also ease mental tension, especially if essential oils are used in combination, which have been proven to promote relaxation, improve sleep and create feel-good chemical serotonin.
If you are seeking muscle tension relief, Jing Ji Therapy by Cici is a TCM treatment designed specifically to address neck, shoulder and back pains, and even migraines. Jing Ji are the network of secondary meridians in Chinese acupuncture, with “ji” referring to ligament or muscle, which also includes the tendons.