Muscle hardening is referred to in medicine as myogelosis. The term describes a mostly bean-sized, clearly defined, palpable, local change in the muscles. Myogeloses are often "painful". The term muscle hard tension is used in medicine for a large-scale, increased state of tension of the muscles.
The cause of the hardening of the muscles or myogelosis is changes in the metabolism due to overwork or permanent stress on the muscles. Less often, inflammation of a muscle triggers muscle hardening. Psychological influencing factors should also be mentioned.
Excessive or prolonged strain on the muscles leads to vascular compression and thus poor blood supply to the affected muscles. The metabolism of the muscle cells is disrupted. As a result, the cells absorb less oxygen and metabolic products are degraded more poorly. There is swelling and the muscle tension (tone) of the muscle fibers increases - the muscle hardens.
In the case of hard muscle tension, on the other hand, the cause is a reflex response to a stimulus, as can be seen, for example, in the increase in the level of relaxation of the abdominal muscles in stomach problems. Furthermore, bad posture or injuries can lead to “reflex-like” muscle hard tension.
Depending on the causes, different symptoms can occur.
Symptoms of hardened muscles
In the case of muscle hardening, a nodular or bead-like hardening is palpable. Most of the time, the person concerned initially reports an increased feeling of tension in the muscles in a certain region of the body. Later a "pressure sensitivity" with pain when tensing and loss of strength of the affected muscles can be observed. Muscles, whose task it is to adopt a posture against gravity and to maintain it over a long period of time, such as the neck and back muscles, are particularly affected. In athletes in particular, muscle hardening can also occur after a cramp or a strong stretch. If the muscle reacts frequently with hardening of the muscles, this increases the risk of suffering a torn muscle or a strain.
Symptoms of muscle tension
On the other hand, symptomatic of the hard muscle tension is a dull, oppressive permanent pain, which increases when certain postures are taken.
Muscle hardening can be treated with a number of different measures. Therapy should aim to restore painless mobility and function. If no inflammation could be identified as the cause, physical measures such as special massage techniques, heat therapy (e.g. packs, sauna, red light) and stretching are suitable. Electro- or hydrotherapy is also often used to loosen the affected muscle fibers.
The so-called trigger point treatment is frequently used in the therapy of muscle hardening. In addition to the prophylactic effect of this technique on unphysiologically stressed muscles, it is also used to deactivate permanently stressed muscle fibers. The affected muscle is treated at certain points. The possibilities of trigger point therapy range from special physiotherapeutic treatment techniques to needling with acupuncture needles and shock wave therapy to the targeted injection of a local anesthetic into the trigger point. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) extends the options for treating muscle hardening with a variety of techniques. Acupuncture is probably the most common.
If inflammation is the cause of the muscle hardening, drug therapy is in the foreground. Basically, it should be noted that the hardening of the muscles is a symptom that usually indicates a functional disorder. Due to numerous influencing factors that affect the muscles, it is often difficult to determine the exact source of the disorder. However, it is imperative to find the cause and treat it to alleviate the symptoms. (Philipp Schulz, physiotherapist)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
Editor Heilpraxis.de, Barbara Schindewolf-Lensch
- Tobias Jantsch: I and my health: Holistic, individual and cross-functional, neobooks, 2016
- Uwe Wegner: Sports injuries: symptoms, causes, therapy, Schluetersche, 2003
- Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (ed.): Federal Health Gazette, Health Research, Health Protection, Springer, 2019
- Hans-Wilhelm Müller-Wohlfahrt: Muscle injuries in sports: 48 tables, Georg Thieme Verlag, 2010