Muscle Knots – a quick guide to having them less often.
by David Whitlow III, LMT
Muscle Knots are such a common problem. We all have them from time to time, so how do we get them? Muscle knots develop mostly because of three different categories:
3. Sedentary Lifestyle
Many knots are caused because we use our bodies enough to injure ourselves or overuse the muscles we have. Unfortunately the most common source is a sedentary lifestyle. Professional experience has taught me that sitting at my computer right now typing away is building up knots right now. Regardless of the cause, a persistent knot will remain until it is broken up… in more than one way.
The first way to break up a knot is to understand a very basic principle around knots: They need intervention. Something called the “Pain-Spasm-Pain” cycle causes a knot to stay a knot. One of the three categories from above causes the pain, and a spasm follows suit, which causes more pain and more spasm. This cycle continues unless you interrupt it. The following will help to intervene:
1. Massage is well known for, “Getting the knots out, ” and really helps with persistent knots.
2. Stretching is one of the very best things to do to reduce and avoid knots.
3. If a knot is causing a movement pattern which in turn causes swelling, then using ice for no more than 10-15 minutes can help.
Reduce knots by doing the following:
1. Avoid sitting while hunched over. Stretch!
2. Get plenty of exercise, and consult your physician if you don’t know how much you should get.
3. After you exercise, Stretch!
4. Hydrate (Coffee and Beer don’t count)
5. Get your B Vitamins, and plenty of Potassium and Calcium
Why does massage help?
Besides breaking up the pain-spasm-pain cycle, massage brings new blood supply, and with it oxygen, so muscles can function properly. Some muscles become rock hard and the supply of blood is less fluid. Breaking up the physical knot and bringing oxygen in will gradually restore normal function. Massage will not always vanquish an unwavering knot in one session though. Often enough knots need frequent sessions to be completely terminated. Even once the pain from a knot is reduced to a memory the trigger point can become latent and come back later on.
Why do I get the same knots over and over again?
We tend to develop patterns in life. Our job, posture, activity, inactivity and so on. These patterns cause the same muscles to be used or ignored. When they are painful and persistent they are considered active trigger points. A latent trigger point won’t have as much feeling unless someone or something touches it, pinches it, or puts pressure on it. Knots can affect the way we move, stand, sit, our overall strength, and how we carry ourselves among other things. The most shocking part is that we may not even know we are being affected until it is has become a serious pattern modification in our lives.
Why do knots cause pain in different areas when they are getting massaged?
Knots, or trigger points have the unique quality of referring sensation to other very specific areas in the body. Many areas will refer pain to specific points throughout the body and trigger point therapists will use these specific points to treat specific conditions. A few very common conditions that can be treated with trigger point therapy are:
-Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
-Disc Pain (often referred to as radiculopathy)
And many more…
Knots are possibly the most common thing a massage therapist hears as a primary complaint. These little nodules in our muscles cause unnecessary stress for us at various points in our lives. With a little education, a lot of peace can happen. I hope this helps.
David is running a special through Nov. 15 on trigger point massage:
$10 off a 60 minute trigger point massage focusing on the neck, back and shoulders.
For those of you who want to know the physiology, biology, and biochemistry of knots, I have provided a little link here for you. This article has information about knots and it is some of the most comprehensive in the area of physiology of trigger points I have seen. It is a great resource for the science minded.