Muscle tension refers to the state of tension of the musculature, also called "tone". This is caused by the stimuli of the nervous system and the elasticity of the tissue. The muscle tension can be differentiated into an active and a passive, whereby this process always represents the counterforce to the force of the stretching weight. The interaction between the active and passive state have z. B. Effects on the entire posture and the strain-shortening cycle. If the muscle tone becomes painful, there is a tension that is often associated with a wrong posture, caused by stress or other factors.

What is the muscle tension?

Muscle tension refers to the state of tension of the musculature, also called "tone".

The muscle is a contractile organ that sets the entire organism in motion through contractions and relaxation of external and internal structures. Because of this physical process, locomotion is possible at all, as well as the function of individual organs. Without muscle tension man could not even maintain his quite usual posture. Neither sitting nor standing, let alone running would be possible.

The contraction of the muscles occurs as a mechanical process triggered by the impulse of the nerves. If you look closely, different protein molecules shift into each other. As soon as the nerves cease pulsing with the muscle, it relaxes again.

Basically, the muscles are initially in a so-called resting tone. This means that muscles have a residual stress in spite of rest, as well as a resistance to external stimuli. The resting muscle is therefore basically exposed to a force and tension. Opposed to this is the active tone triggered by contractions. This voltage can also be measured.

This is done by electromyography, a neurological method to study the activity of the muscles. Concentric needle electrodes are used to derive the potential fluctuations of the motor units, to detect individual muscle fibers and to detect the actual action potential (the electrical activity of a contracting muscle). Also over the skin by means of surface electrodes, a measurement is feasible, but this is somewhat inaccurate.

Function & Task

In medicine, the active and passive tension of the muscles is differentiated. Material properties, the anatomical tissue structure and position, as well as the composition of the muscle fibers play a role in the determination of the passive tone, as well as the filling state of the intra- and extracellular fluid hollows. Influence also has oxygenation, temperature and blood flow, the degree of fatigue and the type of muscle stress.

Muscle tension in skeletal muscle is created by contraction of individual muscle fibers. This maintains a level of tension even when the muscles are at rest. The situation is different with the smooth muscle cells, which contract permanently and cause constant muscle tension.

The muscle tension in the resting tone thus means the force with which muscles counteract an acting force. The whole thing is controlled by chamfering the reflex arcs on the muscle, which in turn are neural processes that trigger a body reflex, ie muscle tension.

Diseases & complaints

The measurement by electromyography is necessary to check the muscle tension in a person, which may be increased or decreased, as this exerts a great influence on various areas in the organism, but also on the brain, the activity and the emotions. Not infrequently it comes to complaints that occur in the form of pain, spasm, tension or muscle weakness.

But there are numerous triggers that can be more or less harmless but also more serious nature. The muscle tension can lead to increased pain, z. B. in the spinal cord. Especially back pain is a major burden in everyday life and can sometimes occur due to the slightest stimuli that have no apparent cause. Mostly, increased muscle tension is accompanied by hectic, stress, lack of exercise or a wrong posture.

Whenever the body is exposed to a stressful situation, it reacts with certain stress reactions that initially make sense, as the body is supplied with energy. The musculature has many tasks and therefore requires a lot of energy. With active movements, the energy requirement increases many times over. Heat is a by-product of muscle energy turnover, so body heat also plays a role in muscle tension.

In case of persistent stress, the muscles are under constant stress and tension, the blood vessels are widened, the breathing is flatter, the heart beats faster, the muscle tone increases enormously. Not only the back, but also the neck and shoulders are affected. If the increased muscle tension does not subside, tensions arise that cause pain.

Also the attention-ability of humans is connected with the muscle tension. In order to perceive people, the environment and themselves at the same time, muscles have to loosen and tighten. Since these lie between the skin and the bones, so to speak, between the inner and outer regions of the body, the sensory world is dependent on them and determines the relationship between external and internal conditions, thus making sensation and attentiveness possible in this way.

In fact, muscle tension also affects people's emotions. If the muscles harden, the person feels tense. This tension leads to stress and even creates fears, since events and situations can no longer be solved and reacted calmly. At a higher tension breathing is flatter, the brain and the whole organism must get along with less oxygen.

In contrast, relaxation of the muscles helps, for which there are several methods, including the progressive relaxation technique according to Edmund Jacobsen. A lot of exercise, a conscious and deep breathing or a hot bath are also sufficient to reduce the increased muscle tension and build up more inner peace.

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