With the recent recognition and discoveries concerning fascia and its importance, the understanding of our bodies is changing drastically. (Fascia = the fibrous, elastic connective tissue that’s everywhere in our body, read more here.) Before we thought of our bodies as divided in different parts and of our bones as being stacked upon each other, like a building, with the muscles attached to the bones. But this is not the case. And how we see …
Breathing is something we take for granted, we do it automatically every minute of every day of our lives. It is the most important of all of our bodily functions, as all other functions are dependent upon it. But we underestimate the importance of our quality of breathing. Correct habits of breathing are essential for our vitality, immunity to disease and overall ease in navigating life. But how many of us truly use the breath …
Your body is a map and storage house of every experience you have ever had.
So many of us carry repressed and trapped emotions within multiple areas of our bodies, without even knowing it. In fact, we can go years, even decades, completely oblivious to the blocked energy our muscles are holding on to. This repressed energy is responsible for countless ailments and chronic health conditions that cause us great suffering.
The fact IS that your body doesn’t forget.
Your body is the most honest and obvious way to access trapped feelings and even traumatic memories. No matter how much you try to ignore, intellectualize or suppress how you feel, your body knows the truth. Emotions are the strongest energy within our lives and bodies. They store within the fascia system and emotions or “Energy-IN-Motion” are powerful waves that pass through our lives and they are stronger than our organs or body parts. Emotions when felt and observed pass in and out but the human conditioning is to not look at these energies and they are suppressed. Our breath patterns have pauses before and sometimes after the inhale and exhale. This is our way to press these situations and energies we don’t want to see, and this stores deep within the fascia.
If you are struggling with chronic tension in your neck, shoulders, back, thighs, legs, or any other area of your body, this blog may help you get to the root of your pain, once and for all.
What Causes Chronic Muscle Tension?
According to various studies and papers, we develop chronic muscle tension because of four different causes:
- Social conditioning.
Social conditioning starts in early childhood (around 0-7 years old) and is reinforced throughout the rest of our lives by our parents, friends, teachers, family members, and society at large. A lot of the muscle tension that we develop is the result of unspoken social beliefs that we were taught to adopt as a way of being “acceptable” or likable. For example, many of us were taught that “only babies cry,” so as children, we learned to suppress our tears and sadness in order to “not be a baby.” Many of us were also taught that expressing anger is a “bad” thing as we were punished as children for expressing it. This form of conditioning is strengthened throughout adulthood, particularly in our workplaces where expressing anger is seen as “unprofessional” and potentially dangerous to our job security. Emotions are just energy and they will pass if we let them!
Traumatic experiences can range from being spanked as a child all the way to extreme violence. Trauma may have been deliberately inflicted on us (e.g. rape or physical assault) or accidental (e.g. a car crash). When these traumatic experiences aren’t consciously dealt with, they can result in chronic fear, stress, and even occurrences of PTSD. This chronic anxiety, anger, and grief tends to get stored within fascia of the body resulting in muscle tension which contributes to numerous other illnesses such as fibromyalgia, digestive disorders such as constipation, mental illnesses, and even cancer.
- Psychological tension
Psychological tension is any form of anxiety, frustration, sadness or anger that we develop because of our perceptions. For example, we may develop psychological tension as a result of our thoughts regarding say, our co-worker (like… they’re lazy) or of us being stuck in traffic (“this shouldn’t happen to me”). Our automatic tendency to attach to these thoughts and take them seriously is what causes us psychological tension. The more negative, fearful or fault-finding (towards ourselves and others) our perspective is, the more tension we tend to store in our muscles. Letting go of having to control everything can help and at Spirit Journey Yoga we work with this concept and it has profound results within the body and mind. A state of deep relaxation can result and then less tension could be possible. “Never try, Never Know”.
- Environmental stressors and habits.
Examples are our sedentary lifestyles (working at a desk all day) tend to cause our physical pain because we aren’t giving our muscles a chance to expel the tension. Other habits such as poor posture, lack of sleep, drug use, drinking not enough water, shortening the breathing patterns, unhealthy eating, and environmental pollution tend to increase the likelihood of us developing chronic muscle tension.
Consequences of Chronic Muscle Tension
The field of psychosomatic medicine has conducted numerous studies through the years exploring the mind’s effect on the body, and vice versa. The newest evidence of this study is the topic of fascia and how it is affected by our nervous system and breath patterns.
Let’s look at muscle tension caused by mental and emotional factors, we tend to experience many health issues like:
Mood disorders (anxiety, depression, stress)
Joint pain and increase chance of injury because the ligaments and muscles pull on each other causing tensions (TMJ or tensions in the jaw and side of the head)
Dysmenorrhea (menstruation problems)
Insomnia and the mind not resting, or the healing qualities of REM sleep is not possible or very little time is spent in this state of balancing
Skin problems (acne, psoriasis)
Asthma and hay fever
Headaches and migraines
Palpitations of the heart, panic attacks and chest pain
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
GI issues (diarrhoea, bloating, constipation, cysts)
Hypertension/High blood pressure
Sexual dysfunction (premature ejaculation, painful sex)
Increased tendency towards addictive behavior
This list is by no means complete, and there are many other consequences out there of muscle tension.
9 Types of Muscle Tension Caused by Trapped Emotions
According to many studies conducted, many people suffer from chronic pain every day and many suffer from severe levels of pain. These studies reveal a grim reality: so many of us are suffering from muscle tension daily. There must be a better way to live.
As a person who has struggled with neck, shoulder and lower back pain for many years, I was lucky to discover the source of my pain thanks to a healing method known as yoga and Transformational Breathwork. Thanks to my experience through breathing alone, I was able to discover that my muscle tension was intimately linked to old memories and repressed emotions. I gradually started feeling my muscles unwind through the purification process that yoga gives. As each muscle group relaxed and spasmed, thoughts and emotions fired through my head. For example, through my trauma release studies around the POSAS muscle I found that as my spine let go, I could feel grief pour through me and memories from childhood run through my mind. I could feel my upper thighs release their contraction as anxiety and loneliness bubbled up through me. I could feel the fear and burden be released from my shoulders and neck area. I felt anxiety from abandonment start to melt away.
Although everyone is different and there are no (known) absolute places in the body where outright emotions are stored, there are certain places which tend to accumulate specific types of emotions.
Below, I want to share with you nine of the most common types of muscle pain and what underlying emotions are connected to them:
- Shoulder Tension = Burdens and Responsibilities
When we feel weighed down by the stress of life, we tend to accumulate these feelings within our shoulders. Ever heard the expression “carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders”? Shoulder tension seems to be intimately linked to social and emotional responsibilities, including unconsciously carrying the burden of another people’s pain. As such, many empaths, healers, and caretakers struggle with chronic shoulder muscle tension like myself.
- Neck Tension = Fear and Repressed Self-Expression
Neck tension is often connected to throat chakra issues such as the inability to communicate clearly or be your authentic self around others. Fear and anxiety are also frequently stored in this area, particularly as a physical response to danger (as the neck is a vulnerable area) or strange environments. Neck muscle tension is also related to trust issues.
- Upper Back = Anger, Grief, Sorrow, and Sadness
Unexpressed and unreleased sadness tends to build up within the upper back region. As this area is close to the heart, it is also where emotions connected to heartbreak and loss are stored. For instance, if you carry around grief regarding a loved one or your family at large, you will likely feel tense in this area. Between the shoulder blades can often be tense through anger, frustration and bitterness when we aren’t satisfied, successful or have peace.
- Middle Back = Insecurity and Powerlessness
Healing traditions such as reflexology link middle back pain to feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and insecurity. If you’re feeling unsupported by other people or life, you probably carry tension here.
- Lower Back = Guilt, Shame, and Unworthiness
Lower back issues often correlate with feelings of low self-worth and lack of self-acceptance. Feelings such as guilt, shame, and even sexual inadequacy or trauma can be stored here as well. Fear, False Evidence Appearing Real we often make reality are here also around the kidney area.
- Stomach = Inability to Process Emotions
The expression “I can’t stomach it” appropriately describes stomach muscle tension. If your stomach feels stiff or sore, you might struggle to process both negative (and even positive) emotions. This is also a place where worrying about the future is stored, the mind loves to live in the future and it affects immensely. We are not fortune tellers, but we get stuck in the “what could go wrongs” that is tough on ourselves.
- Inner Thighs = Fear of Vulnerability
Are you nervous and untrusting around other people? If you struggle with social anxiety, you might also have inner thigh pain. Because our legs are biologically programmed to run when we first spot danger, fear towards others is often stored here. This is also part of our Deep Fascia line where we store all the deepest suppressed emotions.
- Outer Thighs = Frustration and Impatience
How fast do you live life? The more quickly and mindlessly you live, the more likely you have frustrated, and impatient energy stored in your outer thigh muscles. Our jobs and personal lives can also contribute greatly to muscle tension in this area.
- Buttocks = Anger and Rage
How often do you have to deal with people who are a “pain in the bum” or “tight ass”? Anger and suppressed rage are often stored in the buttocks. Pay attention next time you feel your head boil: is your but tensing up as well? Look down and see how you stand and if your feet point outwards then this is a sign that your glutes could be tight.
Let’s look at ways to Release Trapped Emotions
You may be wondering how to release the muscle tension you have. Here are some tips:
Allow yourself to “feel it to heal it.”
One of the easiest ways to let go of muscle tension is to actively feel and let go of emotions when they come. Of course, this is not always possible, so at the end of every day, make sure you allow yourself the space to feel the emotions you’ve had through the day. Feeling these emotions might involve crying, punching or screaming into a pillow, or any other form of catharsis.
Adopt an attitude of non-judgment.
When we judge our emotions as something “bad” or “wrong,” we deepen our suffering and solidify the tension within our muscles. Instead, simply realize that an emotion is an emotion. It doesn’t need to mean anything about you unless you let it. Try to feel the emotion within the body and breath into the sensation until it completes and ends.
Journal about how you feel.
Let all your emotions out in a journal, completely being honest with yourself. This is a very healing practice if done regularly. Having the ability to truly be honest with ourselves will awaken us to what is going on within and around us. Confusion can turn into the intuition we all have that sometimes gets clouded by how we perceive our reality. This knowing can allow the breath to slow and the mind to relax, thus our body follows.
Be gentle with yourself.
Muscle tension tends to add to our negative inner voices which cause us even more tension. To break this cycle of the body feeding the mind and the mind feeding the body, be kind towards yourself. Treat yourself as you would a child or best friend. This practice is a simple but profound way to relax. Rest is really a great way to detox.
Stretch your muscles.
Do simple stretches or try yoga to relax your muscles. Even just five minutes a day is beneficial. Yoga is for everyone and even doing to stretches while even sitting at your desk could let your mind get sharper and you body feel better.
Shallow breathing causes a restriction in air, blood flow, toxin removal, and increased anxiety. Deep breathing stimulates the vagus nerve which calms the mind and feeds the life’s river or blood stream with rich oxygen.
Get a massage.
Seek out a licensed massage therapist to reduce your muscle tension. Alternatively, Roll & Release Yoga can be used to give yourself a deep tissue massage using something like a tennis ball which is profound.
Meditation is a great way to become more present and conscious of muscle tension as it arises. It gives your body, mind and breath more connection and lets the energies within the fascia system to have a more balanced feel.
Live in this moment.
The mind loves to live in the future and the body holds all the energy and thoughts from the past. Now is the only real way to live and trust and believe that the universe is here to protect us and give us all that we need. When we wait without anxiety, life can become so rich and bright and then our attitudes become happier and we can feel more pleasure in life.
I hope this article has better helped you to understand your own muscle tension. Please remember that muscle tension has many causes, and emotions aren’t just the only cause. Also, the list presented in this article isn’t definitive or set in stone. Every person varies meaning that it’s important that you actively explore what emotions are linked to your muscle tension yourself. For example, tension in your shoulders might mean sadness for you personally, whereas this article says it’s generally linked to feeling burdened. So, it’s important that you explore your muscle tension for yourself.
Please consider subscribing to my website and receive my eBook on Roll & Release, aka SMR (Self Myo-Fascial) release technique, as a gift; as well as to my YouTube channel Rusty Davis Yoga to enjoy some helpful videos..
The psoas muscle (pronounced SO-as) may be the most important muscle in your body. Without this essential muscle group you wouldn’t even be able to get out of the bed in the morning! In fact, whether you run, bike, dance, practice yoga, or just hang out on your couch, your psoas muscles are involved. That’s because your psoas muscles are the primary connectors between your torso and your legs. They affect your posture and help to stabilize your spine. The psoas muscles …