What are muscle knots? Why do you get them? and more importantly - How can you get rid of them?
Muscles consist of fibres which are bundled together and surrounded by connective tissue. Knots tend to occur when the muscle fibres or bands of tissue (fascia) tense up and tighten. This might be because you are overusing some muscle groups or maybe you have had an injury that is in the process of repair.
These knots can feel like lumps and can be quite painful. They are also known as Myofascial Trigger Points.
The areas which are most prone to tension are the shoulders, calf muscles and lower back. They are most common in your trapezius (a large diamond shaped muscle which covers some of your back), although they can develop anywhere that muscle is present.
Why do you get knots?
There are a number of causes as to why you may feel knots in your muscles.
Poor posture is a key factor, especially if you sit for long periods of time, hunched over a laptop or driving your commute to work. Your knotted muscles could be down to your job; particularly if you use repetitive movements, such as brick laying or hairdressing. They may be a result of stress - often noticed by those shoulders creeping up towards your earlobes. Perhaps you have picked up an injury due to training or you have over-used one particular muscle group to the point where it can't relax and it therefore holds tension all the time.
These knots may start off as small, painful lumps, but if left untreated, may cause referred pain. This is when the pain spreads from the trigger point to nearby muscles. They can make you feel like you ache; they can affect your range of movement, they can cause headaches and lead to poor quality sleep.
How can you get rid of muscle knots?
Firstly, you need to work out what is causing your muscles to feel this tension; then you need to start to break down the knotted tissue.
- Include stretching breaks in your daily activities to help to reduce muscle tension. You don't have to drop to the floor for a downward dog (!) just get out of your seat, stretch your neck and get a bit of mobility back to those muscles.
- Exercise. By introducing 30 minutes of daily exercise, the increased blood supply will help to filter out toxins.
- Apply ice to reduce any swelling and to numb pain and apply heat to loosen stiffness and increase the blood flow to the area.
- Rest. This doesn't necessarily mean feet up on the sofa for hours; but more like finding something that helps you to relax. Allowing your muscles to be in a restful state which can reduce the tension and stress.
Can you use self- massage?
Dependent on where the trigger point is - you may be able to apply pressure or rub out the knot yourself. The aim is for it to start to feel softer to touch and hopefully may begin to release. Try to use a light oil and add menthol or lavender to help with relaxation.
Foam rollers are useful bits of equipment, particularly for the larger muscle groups. A tennis ball, or a small, firm ball can help to get into awkward areas.
What about a Sports Massage?
A Sports Massage can help to increase circulation and improve blood flow to the area. The techniques used help to 'break down' trigger points and can release tension in the surrounding areas. The aim is to allow for a better range of pain-free movement and to encourage the drainage of toxins.
One massage isn't usually enough to heal knotted muscles completely; but regular treatments can help with the long-term management.
If you have any questions, please contact me.