“HELP! I have a huge knot in my shoulders!” Sounds familiar?
Do you often experience this tender, achy feeling of a muscle knot typically in your shoulders back and neck? Ouch…but what are they?
What are muscle knots?
A muscle knot is a fastening made by looping a piece of muscle fibre on itself and tightening it.
Well, only joking, although even researchers in this field don’t really agree on what causes knots. They do agree they are harmful for us.
The medical term of a muscle knot is myofascial trigger point, described as hyperirritable spots in the skeletal muscle… then hyperirritable person if they don’t go away quickly.
Trigger points can develop following and injury, muscle overuse or due to sedentary lifestyle. Sitting at the desk all day requires continuous contraction and metabolic overload of neck and shoulder muscles. Not stretching and not fuelling your body after exercise is as bad as sedentary lifestyle for developing muscle knots.
Chemical imbalance occurs as the constant contraction of the muscles causes reduced blood flow, oxygen- and nutrient supply in the cells. The trigger points release 11 different chemicals (eg lactic acid, acetylcholine, noradrenaline, serotonin etc) into your body. Ultimately, the increase production of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine signals to the muscle fibres to contract constantly. Muscle fibres stick to each other, become adhered and the contracted spot becomes so tight that it restricts blood flow to that area in the muscle even more. Catch 22.
The hard, sensitive areas of muscles sometimes have a hard knob in the centre and may become inflamed or swollen. Muscles are made to slide against each other smoothly in multiple directions, when multiple muscles are glued together the risk of injuries increases as they don’t move individually as they`re designed to.
Trigger points may elicit local tenderness, pain or referred pain and even twitch response. The pain is not necessarily caused by acute trauma, inflammation, degeneration or infection, although it can lead to it.
Trigger points form only in muscles, but the muscles can pull on tendons and ligaments and can cause pain deep within the joints too.
Muscle knots can cause symptoms such as
pain in other parts of the body when touched
tension headaches, toothaches, earaches
bad posture and muscle imbalance due to pain and discomfort
insomnia and anxiety due to pain and discomfort
lack of motivation to move
Muscle knots can be caused by:
a sedentary lifestyle
overusing or injuring your muscles - lack of stretch and appropriate muscle recovery habits
poor posture and ergonomics
unhealthy eating habits
Diagnosing a muscle knot requires a physical examination by an experienced professional such as a massage therapist or chiropractor. The examiner will assess the area of concern for three things: a taut band of muscle, a tender nodule, the reaction of the patient to physical pressure, movement pattern of patient.
Treating muscle knots can take time. To get rid of the knots, you’ll need to break up the knotted tissue and calm inflamed nerves. Following are some things you can do to help break up the knots and find relief.
Massage techniques will help to reduce muscle tension. Pressure point technique works as the pressure applied enhances blood flow to the area delivering nutrients to normalise the cells chemical balance.
It is like when you squeeze your hand into a fist for few seconds and it becomes white as blood flow is restricted, then open it back up and fresh blood flows into the tissue.
Same with trigger point techniques, when the pressure is released, the fresh blood makes the environment less acidic, that means no more glued muscles, toxins and tightness. Less risks of further injuries, better health, and sports performance and of course many other physiological and psychological benefits too.
Keep in mind that one session isn’t quite enough to recover completely. At the beginning, you’ll likely need to have several frequent sessions, once you feel improvements you can space out your sessions.
Exercise of any type will help to improve your circulation. Cardio will help to pump fresh oxygenated blood and nutrients in the muscles. Strengthening the muscles help to create balanced musculature and correct movement pattern. If you are unsure what type of exercise is good for you, it is always wise to get an exercise plan from an exercise therapist (personal trainer, physiotherapist, strength and conditioning coach etc).
Stretching can help you to release tension in your body. Don’t force yourself into any positions or do anything that causes pain. For best results, hold stretches for 20/ 30 seconds as many times a day as needed. Yoga is an other method that help destressing the mind and body.
A chiropractor and osteopath can help to correct any skeletal and spinal misalignments. Acupuncture will decrease the pressure, too.
Deep breathing contributes in the process, too. A research states that trigger points are acidic, therefore deep breathing techniques – which lower blood acidity a bit- may contribute to the healing process.
Diet...not this again this! "Leave me alone with my food". You have sore muscles due to your daily activities and it still leaves you drained when you should have some energy left. You are what you eat. A stressed, irritable, painful knot? Shhh…
If you eat food low in essential nutrients (perhaps still high in calories) you won`t have energy or motivation to move as a crap diet will affect you psychologically and physically. You move less and it causes restricted blood flow to the muscles, you feel more tension and less likely to be in the mood to move, start to feel low as now you don’t do what your body and mind is crying out for: nice supply of oxygen and nutrients, moving, happy hormones, flexibility, confidence, self- development. Let`s stop there, this article was really about knots. Can you see how everything is linked in your life? Perhaps even your pet likes you when you get your knots treated.
Heat and cold therapy helps as well. Cold helps to reduce swelling as it constrict the blood vessels and stops harmful chemicals floating in the tissue, it also works as a local anaesthetic.
To apply cold, use a cold compress for 10 minutes, and then remove it for at least 15 minutes. You can repeat this until you begin to find relief. Heat relieves pain by relaxing stiff muscles and promoting blood flow. To apply heat, use a heat pad or take a warm bath. Muscle rubs (cold and hot) help to soften and relax muscle knots. Before using a rub for the first time, do a patch test.
Meditation, sleep, relaxation Get your inner being to help, meditate your knots away. Or if that sounds weird and too spiritual, just chill and switch off. More time for yourself when you slow your thoughts down, notice unhelpful thoughts and feed your mind with positive thoughts. Then you will feel more relaxed and mindful, sleep better, get more mental energy and motivation to train and eat healthy. Snow ball effects start.
What now? Where to start?
You need balance. We are not designed to be sedentary nor to run a marathon and lift weights and saying there was no time to stretch. Yeah right, I know, I train for 90 minutes and by the end I am exhausted and all I can think is: protein and carbs asap. But trust me, it worth it. Just 5 minutes, perhaps in the bath, 20/30 seconds each muscle groups that you worked on.
We are not designed to feel stressed all the time and eat crap. You abuse your body and your body is crying out for help.
Take it easy. Most knots are minor and can be treated on your own by maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle.
There are several ways to prevent muscle knots or treat minor knots from forming.
Always practice good posture in your daily life. Focus on sitting relaxed, with your shoulders back and down, and avoid slouching while sitting.
Don’t sit for long periods of time. Take a break, and get up and move at least once every hour of extended sitting.
Do simple stretches throughout the day to keep your muscles from getting tight.
Maintain a healthy diet. Replace processed foods with fresh, whole foods.
Consider getting regular massages to help you to relax, gain flexibility, and keep your muscles healthy
Self- massage can be affective if you are already doing everything for your health. You can use a massage ball, massage gun, foam roller or acupressure mats.
Having warm baths with magnesium salt (Epsom salt) or doing breathing techniques will help your mind and body
Regularly visit a chiropractor or osteopath to correct any misalignment of your structure
- move: strength, cardio, stretch
- eat healthy, unprocessed, whole food
- drink plenty, more water less alcohol
- hold and cold
- chiropractor - spine/bones
- massage therapist - muscles
- personal trainer - exercise, stretch, diet
- meditation, breathing, stretching, yoga,
- self massage, foam roller, massage gun, massage ball, stretches,
- magnesium, muscle rub (bio freeze, heat rub, tiger balm)
Say NO for knots. Drop me a message for your free consultation.
Let me help you create a fit, healthy and aesthetic body. Start your journey today.
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