What Causes Muscle Tension All Over the Body?

The Rack Athletic Performance Center

Many people turn to trainers, therapists, and medical professionals to determine what causes muscle tension all over body areas such as the neck, shoulders, back, thighs, and calves. Aches and pains can be a normal part of aging or a common symptom of treatable medical conditions. At The Rack Athletic Performance Center, Atlanta’s goal-oriented personal trainers help people find relief from muscle tension, improve mobility, reduce pain, and increase flexibility.

Only by correctly answering the question, “What causes muscle tension all over the body?” can we develop custom training or therapeutic programs that address that tension in the most efficient and productive way. 

What Is Muscle Tension?

Muscles extend and flex during natural body movements. Often, muscles are arranged as complementary pairs. As we move, one muscle contracts while its partner relaxes. What happens if opposing muscles are both trying to contract at the same time? Muscles can exert tension on bones, tendons, and other body structures as they contract. 

Tense muscles can become sore and difficult to move. Tense muscles in one part of the body can force other muscles to compensate, leading to spreading and worsening muscle pain.

So what causes muscle tension?

Psychological Stress

Psychological stress and emotions such as fear and anger can trigger fight-or-flight responses in the body. Keeping your muscles in a partially contracted state can be helpful in a physical confrontation, but chronic muscle tension in times of stress causes aches and pains and other problems, such as high blood pressure. Psychologists can teach relaxation techniques and look to the mind for answers to “what causes muscle tension all over the body?”

Overuse of Muscles

If you exercise too much without stretching beforehand, you could tear or irritate muscle tissue, causing pain, swelling, and tension as the body attempts to heal.

Muscle tension can be a protective response because it partially immobilizes injured areas. While muscle guarding can be helpful immediately after an injury, it can trigger a vicious cycle. Muscle tension triggers more pain, which exacerbates muscle tension.

Not Using Muscles Enough

If you do not exercise your muscles enough or have a sedentary lifestyle, you might be more susceptible to muscle stiffness. Moderate physical activity is important because it stretches the muscles and promotes muscle strength and stamina.

Chronic Myofascial Pain

The fascia is the tissue that surrounds muscle fibers. Stress on your muscles from poor posture or gait can damage the muscles and the fascia, causing them to become sore and tender. 

Diseases that Affect the Muscles

In addition to psychological stress and physical injuries to the muscles, diseases can cause muscle soreness and tension. Therapies and training regimens should take into account any medical conditions that might affect how the muscles respond to treatments.


Fibromyalgia is a disease characterized by widespread muscle pain. The causes and triggers of fibromyalgia are the subject of ongoing research. We do know, however, that fibromyalgia causes muscle fatigue, pain, and stiffness.

Myotonia Congenita

People with genetic conditions, such as myotonia congenita, can experience muscle stiffness and weakness that can make it difficult to walk and perform daily activities.

Diseases that Affect the Nervous System

The answer to the question, “What causes muscle tension all over the body?” is not limited to the muscles themselves. Normal muscles can become abnormally tense if a condition of the nervous system causes nerves to send signals that cause the muscles to contract.

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis

Disorders like ALS, which prevent motor neurons from sending signals to the body, can cause muscles to atrophy from disuse. Muscle weakness, coupled with abnormal signals from the nerves, can cause muscles to become stiff.


Some poisons can cause muscle tension and spasms. Tetanus toxin, which causes “lockjaw,” is one of the most well-known of these neurotoxins.

Physical Training and Muscle Tension

Together with medication, psychological therapy, physical therapy, and other treatments, physical training at home or a gym can build muscle stamina, strength, and flexibility. If weak muscles are putting stress on nearby muscle groups, a program of stretches and exercises can relieve pain and soreness. Physical trainers can help you identify ways that your lifestyle contributes to muscle tension and counteract those problems.

Improve the Health of Your Muscles by Training at The Rack Athletic Performance Center

At The Rack Athletic Performance Center in Atlanta, GA, you can develop muscle flexibility and strength by training with experienced professionals who are familiar with many of the conditions that affect muscles. Our trainers can motivate you to stick with a training program and give you tips on how to continue your workouts at home.  Learn how to enhance the flexibility and strength of muscles. Improve your posture by working the pectorals, deltoids, and trapezius muscle groups. Call (678) 626-7225 to speak with a trainer about questions like, “What causes muscle tension all over the body?”

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