Self-Care for Tight & Tense Muscles

Many clients ask me what they can do to help manage or prevent muscles becoming tight and “knots” forming. The answer is plenty! After a massage treatment I always give aftercare advice to help clients get the most out of their treatment. There’s lots of things you can do at home even if you haven’t had a massage to help with tight or sore muscles.

Application of Heat/Cold

If you have a muscle injury and the area is red, inflamed or hot then applying something cold to the area will help bring down any swelling and provide some relief.

Don’t apply ice directly onto the skin but wrap it in a plastic bag and then put a tea towel round it, or wrap a bag of frozen peas in a tea towel instead (it works just as well). It is advised to see a doctor if you see no improvement after a few days or if you think the injury is severe, try to listen to your body.

For ongoing or chronic muscle tightness, the application of heat can be very beneficial.

Heat encourages muscle fibres to relax. Something as simple as a warm or hot bath is a pain free way to encourage your muscles to release. Alternatively a hot water bottle or bean bag that can be heated up can give a more targeted focus to areas of tension. The temperature should be comfortable.


Business woman is doing a neck stretch during break.Tight muscles can be encouraged to elongate and lengthen through stretches. If you have spent any time at the gym or just know a little bit about human anatomy you might know some simple stretches to help release the muscle which feels tight.

For example if you have tight trapezius muscles (those muscles at the tops of your shoulders) there’s some easy stretches to try. Sitting in a chair or comfortably on the floor take a deep breath and relax your shoulders as much as you can, then slowly let your head drop to one side with your ear moving towards the tops of your shoulders. Don’t force anything just let your head drop to where it is comfortable and hold for 8-10 breaths. Repeat on the other side.

Try to do these stretches daily, particularly if you sit at a desk for large portions of the day. If you feel any pain then return to your starting position.

If you don’t know what stretches to try then ask your massage therapist for some suggestions.

Get Moving

Muscles often become tight and knotty because our lifestyles increasingly involve us spending hours at a time sat at desks. This means the muscles are not being activated and stretched regularly but are staying still and often in a contracted state for long periods of time.

If you can, try to get away from your desk every couple of hours even if it’s to make a hot drink. Try to go for a 15 minute walk at lunchtime. If you can’t get away from your desk try to do some stretches whilst working, such as the one mentioned above. You might feel self-conscious at first but you could try getting your whole team involved, they may thank you for it!

Exercise of any sort can help relieve tension by getting the muscles moving. Yoga in particular which largely focuses on stretching will be particularly useful but any exercise you enjoy can be beneficial if it isn’t too repetitive. Try to incorporate stretching in your warm up and warm down routine as well.


It may be stating the obvious but stress plays a factor emotionally as well as physically in our bodies. Stress manifests in physical ways in our bodies with tight muscles being one manifestation. Taking time out to do something relaxing or enjoyable when you can will help as will treating yourself to a massage when you can. It is sometimes seen as a luxury to take time out for ourselves but what’s more important than our own health and wellbeing?

So which of the above tips should you use? If you can incorporate them all, even in a small way, into your daily or weekly routine, your body and in particular your muscles will thank you for it.

Kirsty Manning is a qualified massage therapist practising holistic, deep tissue & pregnancy massage as well as teaching baby massage classes.

Appointments are available with Kirsty on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Please contact her directly on 0784 145 1156 or to book an appointment.