In this scenario, let’s imagine that we have identified and addressed the reason that the muscle had been in a constant contracted position. The muscle, however, has not relaxed but remains in a shortened state. To bring that muscle back to a functional muscle, will probably require some manual manipulation (i.e., massage).
Collagen, the building protein of the body, is laying down throughout the body all the time - and seems to do so at a faster pace as we age. If a muscle is held in a short position for an extended period, then the collagen lays down and sticks that tissue in that position. Over time this develops to a point where the essence of the muscle, the contract/relax part, is diminished as it now functions more like connective tissue. One of the easiest examples of this in our society is the posture of many of our senior citizens. The muscles of the back have become so rigid that when upright they are rounded forward and when laying down cannot lay flat on their back because the muscles are too stiff.
Muscles that are this stiff cannot be effectively contracted nor stretched because they no longer have the suppleness that we would like the muscle to have. In this rigid state, they function much more like connective tissue than muscle.
The great news, however, is that this is all living tissue and can be changed. The first step is to identify if you have muscles in this state. Sometimes this can be challenging, especially if the stuck muscles are deep stabilizing muscles. Next, determine if the stuck muscle has been responding to another force pulling it. This can be other muscles and/or the force of gravity as in the rounded forward posture already mentioned. Then you can address the stuck muscles as part of the whole body program with targeted massage. And once the muscle starts to become unstuck over time the muscle will be able to stretch as well as contract.
Sounds like quite a process, and it is, which is one of the reasons why we are big believers in regular massage. Massage therapists can find and address these restrictions before they develop into stuck muscles. But even if regular massage hasn’t been part of your self-care program and you have developed muscles that are functioning not like muscle, you can make a difference. Bringing those muscles back to supple and then strong.
As always, let me know how I can help.