What are Muscle Knots?

We often hear people saying they have a ‘knot’ in their muscle, but what is a  “knot” exactly? How do we get them and how do we get rid of them?

Muscle “knots” are hard, sensitive areas of muscles that tighten and contract. They’re technical term is “A Trigger Point”. Some research suggests that these knots in the muscles may be patches of tissue polluted by metabolic waste. These tense muscle fibers are painful to touch and are mostly just annoying. However serious trigger points can transfer pain and strange sensations to other areas of the body. We call this “Myofascial Pain Syndrome”.

Muscle knots can be caused by:

  • A sedentary lifestyle
  • Overusing or injuring your muscles
  • Poor posture
  • Dehydration
  • Unhealthy eating habits
  • Stress and anxiety

Muscle knots can occur anywhere in the body, but they’re usually found in your back, shoulders, and neck. They often show up in your gluteal muscles, too.

Muscle knots can cause aching sensations and pain in your muscles and joints. When you touch a muscle knot, it may feel swollen, tense, or bumpy. It could also feel tight and contracted, even when you’re trying to relax, and they’re often sensitive to the touch. The affected area may even become inflamed or swollen.

Muscle knots can cause symptoms in areas outside of the muscles, including:

  • Headaches
  • Toothaches
  • Earaches
  • Pins and Needles

You may also experience stress, anxiety, and depression, and have difficulty sleeping.

Treatment

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. The following are some things you can do to help release the knots and find relief.

Rest: Allow your body to rest if you have muscle knots. Take a break from any activities that are causing the knots, or that increase your pain or discomfort. Dedicate as much time as possible to relaxation. This may include sleeping longer than usual or lying in a comfortable position using pillows to support your body.

Stretch:  GENTLE stretching that elongates your muscles can help you to release tension in your body. Be gentle with yourself while stretching. Don’t force yourself into any positions or do anything that causes pain. For best results, hold stretches for at least 30 seconds, and release the stretch slowly to reduce your risk for injury

Exercise: Aerobic exercise may help to relieve muscle knots. If the knots are in your shoulders or neck, do arm swings, swimming and any other arm movements that work the muscles in your shoulders and neck. This stretches the muscles and increases their blood supply. Increased blood supply helps filters out toxins.

Hot and cold therapy: Using a combination of heat and cold can help to relieve pain and inflammation due to muscle knots. Cold helps to constrict the blood vessel, which reduces swelling. 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 relaxes and loosens stiff muscles, and relieves pain. Heat may increase blood flow, which promotes healing. To apply heat, use a heat pad or take a hot bath. Alternate between cold and heat treatment, or use the one that works best for you. Hot and cold therapy should be used in conjunction with other therapies such as remedial massage and trigger-point therapy.

Use a muscle rub: Muscle rubs help to soften and relax muscle knots. You can massage a muscle rub onto the affected area twice a day for cooling relief. You may need someone to help you apply to it difficult-to-reach areas. Find a formula that contains menthol, capsaicin, or camphor. Before using a rub for the first time, do a patch test. To do a patch test, apply a small amount of the ointment onto the inside of your forearm. Wait 24 hours to make sure there’s no reaction. If there’s no reaction, you should be fine applying it to other parts of your body.

Trigger Point Pressure Release: This therapy works by applying pressure to your trigger points. A skilled practitioner will put pressure on the muscle knot until it softens and releases. After a treatment session, you’ll have a set of movements to complete at home. This will help to retrain your muscles.

Remedial Massage Therapy: In more persistent cases, remedial massage therapy is recommended. An experienced Remedial Massage Therapist or Myotherapist can help you identify the underlying causes of your muscle knots. They will treat your pain using treatments appropriate to your case. You will be taught techniques that will reduce pain and prevent it from recurring.

Referral to a Physiotherapist: If your Remedial Therapist suspects a deeper underlying driver as the cause for your persistent muscle knots, they will consult our Physiotherapists at Inline Physio and derive the right course of management for you.

Peter Thompson

SLM Myotherapist and Remedial Massage Therapist

 

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