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How do tight or stiff muscles affect my joints?

Tight muscles can place a constant force on a joint, potentially pulling it out of alignment and putting more stress on areas that are not meant to bear that stress. This can lead to increased joint damage.

Dr. Grant Cooper, MD
Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation Specialist

A tight or contracted muscle cannot adequately protect the joint from the stresses of daily life, and it can also cause damage by exerting a constant force on the joint, pulling it out of alignment and forcing parts of the joint to bear weight it wasn't meant to take. The tight muscle also changes your body posture, placing increasing loads on multiple joints. For example, if your hip flexors are tight (which is very common) your pelvis and spine are constantly being pulled forward, increasing stress. When the pelvis and spine are pulled forward, the muscles attaching to the back of them (particularly the lower back muscles) are stretched and forced to work much harder to pull the spine back into alignment. Because the hip flexors are the strongest muscles in the body, the lower back muscles eventually fatigue, stretch and may become inflamed. While this tug of war is going on between your muscles, tendons and ligaments, the joints of your pelvis and spine are out of proper position. Their individual components, which include the sacroiliac joint, discs of the spine and small posterior facet joints of the spine, also are pulled out of position and forced to redistribute the load of the body weight in a suboptimal manner.

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Tight, stiff muscles can affect bone health by limiting your joints from a full range of motion.

Tight or stiff muscles will affect the range of motion of your spine and joints and will often affect weight distribution and stress loading on various areas of the skeleton. Therefore, stretching, strengthening and posture will play an important role throughout your life.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.