Consider this: a tight and even painful muscle is that way it is for a reason. Depending on what that reason is, stretching or releasing it may be the worst thing you can do.

Are there times when it’s appropriate to stretch or release a tight muscle? Yes, of course. But, there are times when it is not, and releasing the muscle can lead to more pain. That’s what this blog post aims to shed some light on.

As a general example, let’s say the tight and painful muscle is the way it is because it’s providing important support in the body. It is perhaps keeping a joint stable, compensating for another muscle in the area that is not working as it should. An ankle, hip or perhaps the neck. If you release that muscle, the body loses the thing keeping the area more stable. As such, you may face more pain, even if you have an initial relief from the muscle release.

Weak vs strong

As a NeuroKinetic Therapy (NKT) practitioner, it is common to find muscles that are tight, but they may be “weak”. The term has a specific meaning in NKT. It means the muscle is unable to meet the pressure of a light manual muscle test. It indicates there is an issue neurologically with regards to activating (firing) the muscle.

A “weak” muscle doesn’t mean it’s not functioning. It may be that it’s not firing when it should. For example, an athlete with very large leg muscles may have quads or gluteus muscles that are weak, neurologically speaking, even though they can do a 200kg squat.

Following on from the above, when we refer to a “strong” muscle, it doesn’t refer to muscle strength, power and stamina, though it’s part of it. It refers to the ability of the muscle to fire properly from a neurological point of view. That is, whether it can meet the pressure of a light manual muscle test from an NKT point of view.

Inhibited vs facilitated

In NKT, we identify patterns and relationships between muscles (and other tissues) in the body that may be causing issues or limit sport performance. But it gets a bit more complicated than just talking about “weak” and “strong” muscles.

There can be 4 combinations of weak/strong between a pair of muscles:

  1. Both are weak.
  2. The first is weak and second is strong.
  3. The second is weak and the first is strong.
  4. Both are strong.

From an NKT point of view, the first combination (both are weak) is the most significant. That means one of the muscles has been over working to the point of exhaustion. But, talking about weak and strong muscles is just part of the story. Once a relationship has been established, we determine what that relationship is in terms of neural activity.

In a specific relationship, one will be “facilitated” and the other “inhibited”.

  • Facilitated = neurologically overactive.
  • Inhibited = neurologically underactive.

It’s all about relationships and releasing facilitators

The two terms introduced above (facilitated and inhibited) are about relationships between muscles (or other structures in the body).

An NKT correction consists of releasing facilitated muscles (or other tissues in the body) and activating what’s inhibited (neurologically underactive). This helps establishes a new pattern to alleviate pain and/or improve body function.

Interestingly, a muscle may be inhibited in one relationship, but facilitated in another. Yes, the body is complex…

Coming back to the start of this post. A tight muscle doesn’t mean strong or facilitated. Inhibited muscles may also be tight (and painful), but should not be released. On the same account, a weak muscle can be facilitated and would be released in an NKT treatment.

What can you do?

You may feel like certain muscles are weak, tight and perhaps painful, but how do you go from there, given what I’ve written above?

Hopefully you can view what’s going on in your body a bit differently. So, if you have been releasing something for ages and it doesn’t really help, or it has caused other issues, it may be because you’re releasing an inhibited muscle.

You could seek out an NKT practitioner, which is the obvious suggestion from the narrative and source of this post! But, I’d like to end with something you could do yourself.

Dr. Kathy Dooley, one of the teachers of NKT has done a short [video] showing an example of something you can do if you feel an urge to stretch a hamstring (that, in this case, shouldn’t be stretched). You can apply this principle to other parts of your body as well.