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Tension and Tightness: Should We Rub it Out?

Does this sound familiar?

The pain comes on unexpectedly, we find the area is tense, so we rub it out.

It does not subside, but we put up with it for a while. Eventually, feeling distressed and increasingly robbed of comfortable day-to-day movementes, we book in with a chiropractor, physiotherapist or a massage practitioner.

They tell us that our back, hip or shoulder muscles are too tight, and these tense, sore areas get worked on directly to provide the much-needed relief.

Job done? Sometimes.

Is the outcome always certain and positive?

Sadly, not so.

Sometimes we get better and move on from that episode. Fantastic!

But sometimes we remain in a cycle of needing to repeat the treatment every now and then. This can be frustrating - and end up being expensive.

And sometimes, our pain can get worse. A lot worse.

Why such randomness?

Are these professionals no good?

I am sure they are, almost all the time, really competent in their field and always very well-meaning. I will never, ever knock their qualifications or the long-standing history of their professions. But a lot of them will be guessing as to the reason for tension, OR making an assumption that tension NEEDS RUBBING OUT.

Which, in a body’s terms, is a dangerous assumption to make.


The body and brain has three ways to respond to events:

  • by generating a thought - conscious or unconscious

  • through changing hormonal activity, or

  • by changing muscle activity.

Tension is therefore created by the brain - on purpose.

Tension is either a protective or a compensatory response.

A muscle holds on tight guarding us from an injury if the body feels it’s

otherwise unprotected in some way.

Or, a muscle tenses up to compensate for another muscle or structure that is not available at present to do its job well.

NeuroKinetic Therapy (NKT) - applied neurology work - amply demonstrated to me and my fellow professionals that there is ALWAYS a PAIR, or several pairs, of compensatory muscles in the body, if something had gone wrong. Something is “underworking” and something is “overworking”. They need one another to help one another. But it’s a dysfynctional pairing. They are ALL tight if the relationship between these pairs has departed from normal calm happy function.

Both of these actions - tightening to protect, and tightening to compensate - are very well intentioned by our clever brain. It is currently THE BEST possible strategy.

So imagine now that we are dealing with a protective spasm of a back muscle. It is often assumed we need to rub this muscle out because it is “too tight” to give it relief. But what if this muscle is actually weak and the body is guarding it by giving it protective tightness? What if the muscle has gone into a spasm to protect a trapped nerve? If we manage to rub it out (and it might not yield easily - with good reason!), we have removed protection the body had laid on. We can have a lot more pain now as the body feels even more vulnerable.

Or, what if this muscle it tight because it’s the one that the body is desperately holding on to, because something else that’s important is underperforming for some reason? It’s like the last available resort. Rub it out, and the whole pattern of compensations loses its underlying pin and collapses like a pack of cards into disarray.

Not good.

More pain can result, and pretty promptly.

It’s the body’s way of communicating that what had been done was unsafe. We misread the signs.

So next time you experience tension, the most important question to understand is WHY it is there.

What it is guarding for, and whether the body might be holding onto that area for dear life, and for what reason.

NeuroKinetic Therapy asks and addresses these questions to eliminate guesswork.

So we only end up rubbing out the tension areas that need to be rubbed out, but then we activate what we determine needs to be activated to restore balance.

If you have pain or tension you are concerned about, give me a call and we can talk about how my approach can help.

No guesswork in my bodywork. We say “test, don’t guess” in NKT.

To your health,


Tel: 07768135481


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