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Lived Experiences of Muscle Tightness Symptoms From Patients’ Perspectives

Bhimani, Rozina; Carney-Anderson, Lisa

Journal of Neuroscience Nursing: October 2017 - Volume 49 - Issue 5 - p 280–285
doi: 10.1097/JNN.0000000000000302

ABSTRACT The aims of this study were to understand symptoms of chronic muscle tightness from the patient’s perspective and explore symptom management strategies used by them. Muscle tightness, a common symptom, is a challenge to manage in clinical practice because it is commingled with other orthopedic conditions. Nurses may not be aware of the negative impact of tight muscles because this symptom is presumed to be self-limiting; however, if not treated appropriately, muscle tightness can become chronic. The focus of this study is the lived experience of patients with chronic muscle tightness. The researchers used a qualitative descriptive design in which patients provided insights into the experiences and self-management of chronic muscle tightness. Sixteen adult subjects experiencing physical impairments who were managed by physical therapists in a specialty clinic participated in the study. The subjects participated in 45- to 60-minute semistructured interviews to provide understanding of chronic muscle tightness. The interviews were recorded and transcribed for content analysis. Results indicate that patients identify day-to-day experiences of chronic muscle tightness as unresolving; these patients experience myriads of sensations and live with life restrictions that negatively affect their quality of life. Uses of complementary therapies are commonplace in managing this symptom. The symptom of chronic muscle tightness may linger, and patients use workarounds to manage their lives. Nurses must understand patients’ perspectives to assist them in achieving an acceptable quality of life.

Lisa Carney-Anderson, PhD, is Assistant Professor, Department of Integrative Biology and Physiology, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN.

Questions or comments about this article may be directed to Rozina Bhimani, PhD DNP APRN-CNP CNE, at She is an Assistant Professor, University of Minnesota School of Nursing, Minneapolis, MN.

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

© 2017 American Association of Neuroscience Nurses