Tuesday, May 31, 2016

What's in a Knot?

When we are hurting, sometimes a big, small, hard or crunchy "knot" can be felt and found by palpating a muscle. It's uncomfortable, it can restrict your range of motion and you just want it OUT of your body. I get calls and messages all the time for appointments to "work a knot out". But what is a knot? Why is it there? Can we prevent it or make it go away? 

The technical term for a knot is a Myofascial Trigger Point. Myo=Muscle and Fascial= Referring to the fascia (connective tissue). The knots are found between the muscle and surrounding fascia. In these knots we can find wound up muscle fibers and deposits of protein. It's very common to have knots and in my practice I find the most common area for knots are in the muscles between the shoulder blades and the spine. In fact, if someone doesn't have any knots there I find THAT to be odd. Get out of here super bodied freak! ;) 

There is a lot of research going on about how exactly knots form, but it is apparent that muscle contraction has everything to do with it. When a muscle is contracted for too long, it can cause that muscle to stay tight and for a trigger point to form. So when are we harmfully contracting muscles to cause these horrid little creatures? All the time. Sitting, keeping your head down and body bent forward like me while writing this blog on my iPhone, jobs and activities that require your muscles to repetitively do the same movement, poor posture, injuries and STRESS. Stress is a huge one, too. How many times have you been stressed out and noticed that you were clenching your fists, grinding your teeth or holding your shoulders to your ears? Stress causes havoc on the body in many, many ways and muscle pain is just one unfortunate side effect. 

Massage therapy (specifically deep tissue, trigger point and myofascial release) is extremely helpful for loosening up a knot and taking the pain away. It brings blood flow to the area and relaxes the muscle. Massage speaks to the muscles and tells them that everything is going to be alright, to relax and let go. 

Sometimes a knot can even cause pain in an entirely different area than it's located. It is common to find a knot in the neck that has been causing pain in the arm. Once the treatment of the knot is over, the arm often feels much better. 

To prevent and continue to treat knots you should... 

1. Stay hydrated 
2. Exercise
3. Take breaks from repetitive activities and long periods of being sedentary 
4. Stretch your body 
5. Don't sweat the small stuff and take moments for relaxation 
6. Apply hot or cold therapy to tight muscles
7. Live, laugh, love and dance like no one is watching 

Hopefully you are all pain free and avoiding knots as much as possible but if not, the good thing about massage therapy is that it's relaxing, non invasive and benefits your body in many other ways. Cheers to being mindful of your body and leading a healthy and therefore happy life!