Blog of the Week: The Up Side of Tension

Originally published on August 5, 2013 by Lindsay Newitter

varazanno bridgeAs I was just looking through some photos I took of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge yesterday, I thought I’d write a post in support of my good friend, tension, because I get a lot of support from him/her . . . it.

Tension gets a bad rap.  Relaxation = good.  Tension = bad.  Tell that to this bridge!  Suspension bridges maintain their support and structure through tension and balance and so do we.  You may associate tension with stress, when in fact, it’s tension that keeps us upright.  You wouldn’t be sitting at your desk or standing and holding your smartphone, walking, running, jumping or doing anything at all without tension.

So, what happens when we get stressed?  We end up tensing muscles that we shouldn’t be tensing, muscles that are intended for movement instead of postural support.  These muscles are only supposed to work in short bursts and fatigue quickly.  This chronic tensing of muscles that shouldn’t be tense all the time often feels uncomfortable and results in strain and pain.  Because of this misplaced tension, our postural muscles, the muscles that should be holding us up all of the time,lose tone.  Postural muscles work to hold us up without any conscious effort on our part.  If you have the intention to stay standing or sitting, they’ll work to hold you up without you having to tighten or move them, but they don’t work so well if other muscles are doing the work for them.

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