One of the most common complaints I hear about as a massage therapist is muscle knots. What exactly are these knots…and what are they …well…not. To understand all this, let’s take a closer look at the body:
There are over 600 muscles in the body. These muscles overlap to give us the ability to move in a variety of ways. They allow us not only to move certain body parts, but also to restrict movement so that you don’t go beyond a healthy range of motion, thus injuring yourself. Muscles also have certain properties. These properties are:
- Excitability: the ability to be stimulated by the neurochemical reactions (think TENS unit)
- Contractility: the ability to shorten (this is how conscious and subconscious movement occurs)
- Extensibility: the ability to stretch
- Elasticity: the ability to return to its original shape
Along with this, muscles are covered by connective tissue called fascia. Fascia is a sticky, glue-like substance that surrounds each muscle fiber, and the muscle group itself. One of its functions is to reduce friction of muscular force. This allows the muscle groups to glide on top of and alongside each other. Along with this, fascia provides a supportive wrapping for nerves, lymph vessels, and blood vessels as they pass through and between muscles. Like the muscle itself, fascia is also innervated by sensory nerve endings.
Okay, now that we have a bit more background on muscles, we can discuss what happens when we get a “knot”. So, firstly, the muscle does not literally tie itself into a knot! They can do a lot of things…just not that! A “knot” is a hyperirritable spot in a band of muscle that causes pain…also called a “trigger point”. There are many causes for this irritation. It can be caused by lack of hydration in the muscles, chronic shortening of the muscles, or the fascia around the muscle becoming sticky attached to surrounding structures-preventing movement or flow of energy.
If you find that you have these knots in your muscles, there are few things that you can do to help relieve them:
- Drink plenty of water. Water helps to hydrate the muscles, which allows them to function properly. It also helps to hydrate the fascia, or connective tissue around the muscles. This may help to prevent trigger points from occurring so frequently.
- Get massage therapy regularly. Massage therapy helps to relieve muscles aches and pains, while loosen sore tense muscles.
- Stretch! Stretching helps to interrupt pain signals to the brain, and keeps the muscles pliable. This is important in everyday life, but especially if you work out. Stretching after you work out can help to decrease tension and soreness in muscles.
If you are looking for someone with massage therapy expertise, who also knows the ins and outs of chronic pain relief…look no further! I’m Ellie Dukes, Licensed Massage Therapist-specializing in prenatal and oncology massage therapy for 15 years. Visit me at Trinity Massage Haven located in Chestnut Hill PA