Muscle Hardening - What to Watch Out for

Definition - What is muscle hardening?

A muscle hardening is a constant tension of a certain muscle group or a single muscle. The hardening can be acute and last a few minutes to hours, but it often becomes chronic and lasts for several days to weeks or even months.

The most common symptom of muscle hardening is pain in the affected area, but this can also spread to surrounding areas.

General information on the subject of muscle pain and what this can mean can be found in the following article: Muscle pain - you should pay attention to this!

Causes of muscle hardening

The causes of muscle hardening are diverse.

They are most common on the back, where bad posture is the most common cause. In particular, a sedentary lifestyle and lack of exercise lead to dysregulation of the muscles and thus trigger permanent tension.

Muscle hardening in the arms and legs usually occurs as a result of acute overload. For example, muscle hardening in the legs is common in running sports. They mainly arise when the person concerned does not warm up sufficiently. As a result, the muscles are not yet well supplied with blood, so that they do not have sufficient nutrients available during a heavy load. This step is usually enough to tighten the muscles, after which the substances are missing to relieve this tension and the muscle remains tense.

A lack of nutrients and a poor electrolyte balance can also be the reason for muscle hardening. In this case, the muscle lacks the substances that could relieve the tension.

Such a nutrient deficiency can also be triggered locally by circulatory disorders. Then the nutrients exist in the body, but they do not get into the affected muscles.

Serious nerve damage is another reason for muscle hardening. The muscles are constantly instructed to tense up.

There may also be other diseases of the muscle. To distinguish muscle hardening from these diseases, also read the articles on these topics:

  • What is a muscle strain?
  • How do I recognize a torn muscle fiber?

Accompanying symptoms of muscle hardening

Typically, muscle hardening is characterized by pain in the area of ​​the affected muscle. The surrounding areas can also tense reflexively so that the pain can spread.

This is particularly common on the back. The back can also be affected if the hardening originally started in the thigh and from there affected the hips and then the back.

In the case of muscle hardening, it is also noticeable that the affected muscle group is almost rock-hard when you press it.

The hardening is usually accompanied by functional restrictions such as reduced mobility.

If, for example, circulatory disorders are the reason for the hardening, insufficient blood flow in the skin can be noticed by paleness.

Nerve damage can make itself felt in numb areas, among other things.

The numbness of an area of ​​skin can be due to numerous causes. You can find out which reasons besides muscle weakness could be present in the following article: Deafness - These diseases can be present

Appointment with a sports orthopedic specialist?

I would be happy to advise you!

Who am I?
My name is dr. Nicolas Gumpert. I am a specialist in orthopedics and the founder of .
Various television programs and print media report regularly about my work. On HR television you can see me every 6 weeks live on "Hallo Hessen".
As a passionate athlete, I have specialized in the treatment of sports diseases for professionals and hobby athletes.
The focus is therefore on diseases of the muscles, tendons and joints.

In order to be able to treat successfully in orthopedics, a thorough examination, diagnosis and a medical history are required.
In our very economic world in particular, there is too little time to thoroughly grasp the complex diseases of orthopedics and thus initiate targeted treatment.
I don't want to join the ranks of "quick knife pullers".

The aim of any treatment is treatment without surgery.

Which therapy achieves the best results in the long term can only be determined after looking at all of the information (Examination, X-ray, ultrasound, MRI, etc.) be assessed.

You can find me in:

  • Lumedis - your orthopedic surgeon
    Kaiserstrasse 14
    60311 Frankfurt am Main

Directly to the online appointment arrangement
Unfortunately, it is currently only possible to make an appointment with private health insurers. I hope for your understanding!
Further information about myself can be found at Dr. Nicolas Gumpert

Duration of muscle hardening

How long a muscle hardening will last is usually difficult to predict.

The acute hardening may have disappeared after a few days. However, you should only exercise slowly afterwards, as otherwise the relapse can quickly occur.

Chronic muscle hardening can persist for several years. Back pain in particular often causes long-lasting problems that can recur even after years.

What is the best way to solve a muscle hardening?

There are different therapy options for treating muscle hardening. They usually consist of relaxation, blood circulation and pain relief, in the case of chronic tension, in particular, exercise therapy.

At the very beginning of the muscle hardening process, cooling the affected muscle group is usually the best way to reduce pain. In addition, careful stretching can be used to try to loosen the hardening quickly. If this is not enough, longer-term measures are necessary.

Heat therapy is particularly suitable for improving blood circulation. Massage or fascia therapy can also improve blood circulation, and the metabolic activity of the muscles is also stimulated. Both in combination improve the healing powers of the body and thus contribute to releasing the hardening.

Various ointments such as Finalgon can also be used to warm up and promote blood circulation.

Strengthening exercises should only be carried out again after a muscle hardening, when the muscle is completely soft and able to relax. With chronic muscle hardening, permanent exercise and strengthening therapy for the affected muscle groups should be carried out.

Here you have received an overview of the treatment methods for muscle hardening. For further important information please also read: This is the best way to solve a muscle hardening

Ointments against hardening of muscles

Therapy with ointments consists of two components for muscle hardening.

For one thing, there are pain relieving ointments like that DocSalbe® and Voltaren® for use. These can relieve acute pain and also have a cooling effect.

Later on you should use ointments and gels that promote blood circulation, such as Finalgon® to be used. This is the best way to relax relaxation.

Some athletes use it Finalgon® and rubbing alcohol also as a preventive measure, especially if they are doing sports in the cold.

Not sure which ointment to choose? To get a general overview of ointments and creams, click on the following link: This should be taken into account when choosing ointments and creams

These drugs help harden muscles

Simple, brief muscle hardening usually does not need to be treated with medication. The administration of electrolytes such as magnesium is usually more helpful.

However, if muscle hardening persists, various medications can be used.

In the case of wheals, for example, local anesthetics are typically injected under the skin. Deeper infiltration with local anesthetics can also be performed.

In addition, it sometimes makes sense to take pain medication locally (usually with an ointment) or systemically (as a tablet).

In the case of chronic muscle tension, drug therapy is often helpful in an acute phase of pain, but the drugs should be discontinued early, otherwise they cause a kind of dependence. This process can, for example, further promote the chronification of back pain due to muscle hardening.

Medicines have a variety of effects. This includes not only the positive but also the negative effects. In order to avoid undesirable side effects, it is important to study the inconveniences of the medication in detail: How high is the likelihood of a drug intolerance?

Muscle Hardening - These home remedies can help

Home remedies for muscle hardening can address various mechanisms of action.

First of all, the application of heat to hardened muscle areas helps most. A hot water bottle or a cherry stone pillow can be used for this. However, sometimes cold is also helpful. Suitable home remedies for this are, for example, cabbage or quark compresses.

Cold and hot baths in the affected part of the body can also be helpful, as can contrast baths. These stimulate the blood circulation in particular and thus help the body to quickly release tension.

Other measures that promote blood circulation are, for example, massage or warming creams.

The fascia roll or black roll can also be used to loosen muscle hardening. In addition to a strong massage of the muscles, the fascia that surround the muscles in particular are stimulated. Possible adhesions loosen and the muscles can move more freely in their shell again.

The importance of fascia rolls and black roll in the context of a treatment or relaxation can be found in the following articles:

  • What is a fascia roll?
  • What is a Blackroll's job?
  • What does fascia training look like?

What can you do against chronic muscle hardening?

For chronic muscle hardening, the best therapy is to get enough exercise.

In acute phases of pain, pain reliever medication can be given. The ability to move should be restored as early as possible.

Overall, chronic muscle hardening can only disappear if the muscles are sufficiently trained again and do not have to cramp with every effort. Regular physical or sports therapy is therefore indicated, especially for chronic back pain. This can be prescribed for at least six months for up to 18 months and carried out in special sports studios.

But what does sports therapy look like? You might also be interested in the most important information in this regard: This is what physiotherapy looks like

Localization of the muscle hardening

Tense muscles in the back

Tension and muscle hardening in the back have become a widespread disease thanks to our mostly motionless everyday life. Mostly to blame is the hours spent in one position at the desk, in front of the computer or in front of the television.

Without the right movement stimuli, the back muscles are weakened so that they are no longer able to keep our back straight. When trying to ensure enough stability, the back muscles tense. This type of muscle hardening often spreads quickly over larger parts of the back.

Painkillers, massages and heat applications can help temporarily. In the long run, the stiff muscles in the back only get better with sufficient exercise and an appropriate sitting posture. Especially on the back it is important to counteract the chronification of muscle hardening.

Do you suffer from severe back pain? To find out what causes back pain may arise, read this article: Causes of back pain

Hardened muscles in the thigh

Muscle hardening in the thigh typically occurs when you do sports without being warmed up or when you put too much strain on your muscles. The hardening of muscles in the thigh is typical for running sports, foot and handball players are often affected by the hardening.

The muscle hardening is usually on the inside of the thigh or the front, the back of the thigh is less often affected.

In acute cases, careful stretching is usually the best therapeutic option to quickly release tension.

Acute cold can also help relieve the pain. Later, the application of heat is often particularly helpful to permanently loosen the hardening. Massage and fascia therapy are also suitable for muscle hardening in the thigh. After a few days to weeks, careful training can usually be started. The increase in performance should only take place when there are no longer any complaints.

Do you have hardened muscles in your thighs? We also have an article specifically on the subject of "muscle hardening in the thigh", with the help of which you can obtain the most important information: Hardened muscles in the thigh

Tense muscles in the calf

Muscle tightness in the calf is most common in sports that involve fast runs and changes of direction. Sprinters and other athletics groups in particular are often affected by the hardening of the muscles in the calf.

If the hardening is just beginning to form, quick stretching may slow the process down. Nevertheless, afterwards a sports break and regeneration apply to the calf muscles.

Tense muscles in the neck

Along with the back, the neck is one of the most vulnerable parts of the body to chronic muscle hardening.

Sitting at a desk for long periods is also bad for the neck. Especially when there is already back pain, there is a reflex tension in the neck muscles. In the long run, this leads to hardening.

In the neck, the pain caused by the hardening of the muscles quickly spreads to the head. This often creates a vicious circle, as you sit even more tense with a headache. Again, only enough exercise helps in the long term.

In acute cases, a careful massage and a warm cherry stone pillow can alleviate the symptoms.

As you can see from the text section, muscle tension in the neck can also lead to so-called tension headaches. Read more on this topic at: What are tension headaches?

Hardened muscles in the shoulder

Muscle hardening in the shoulder often also originates from the back. The tension in the back not only spreads to the neck, but also to the shoulders and leads to pain there.

Muscle tension in the shoulder can also occur acutely, especially throwing and strength athletes are affected. A sudden movement after too short a warm-up phase causes the muscles to contract strongly, after which they can no longer release the tension and the muscles harden.

Here, too, stretching helps first, then warmth, massage and possibly fascia therapy to relieve the symptoms.The shoulder is also a region that can be treated well with acupuncture.

If you have pain in your shoulder, feel a hardening, but are not sure whether it is anything other than a hardened muscle, the following article may also be of interest to you: Pain in the shoulder - what to watch out for!

Tense muscles in the upper arms

Tense muscles in the upper arms are rarely chronic. Rather, they usually occur in the context of excessive or careless exercise. Throwing and strength athletes are most frequently affected in the upper arms, as is the case with muscle hardening on the shoulders.

Heat therapy is usually useful to relax the hardening. This can also take the form of warm arm baths or cold-warm alternating baths. In addition, an analgesic cream such as Volatren® can be used to alleviate the acute symptoms.

The following articles may also be helpful to you:

  • Upper Arm Pain - What Do I Have?
  • Voltaren Pain Gel - You should keep this in mind when using it!

Tense muscles between the shoulder blades

Between the shoulder blades, the hardening of the muscles usually originates from the back and the spine. Acute tension due to overuse (as it could happen with gymnasts, for example) is rare.

Here, too, a more long-term oriented therapy makes sense, which mainly consists of preventive strengthening exercises and movements. Strengthening the back muscles can also improve the hardening of the muscles between the shoulder blades.

Do you have pain in the shoulder blade area, would you like to know the cause and possibly do exercises to strengthen the muscles? Find out what you need to know about these steps:

  • Pain between the shoulder blades - these are the causes
  • Back training - tips for a strong, healthy back

Recommendation from our editorial team

You might also be interested in these topics:

  • This is the best way to solve a muscle hardening
  • Muscle pain - what could be the cause
  • Acupuncture for back pain
  • How can you rule out a torn muscle fiber?
  • What is myogelosis?
  • Tense muscles in the back