Monday, 3 August 2020

Muscle Knots - What exactly are they?

Well, actually there is no such thing as a muscle knot, what we feel and think is a knot are areas of tension in our muscles or tight tendons or ligaments producing tension in our muscles.  For example, many people talk of having and being able to feel small “knarly, crunchy, stringy” areas at the top of the shoulder blade, when very often this is some of the tendons or muscles under tension.  

So what causes this? 

Our muscles are made up of lots of tiny muscles fibers and in the case of these knarly, crunchy areas, these muscle fibers have contracted (shortened) as a result of physical activity, postural imbalance, or stress and then they stay shortened and continue to build and become chronic pain (permanent).

When muscle fibers contract they become shorter, fatter and bunched up, and this creates a physical squeeze on the circulation in the area. Vital supplies of fuel for the muscles in the form of oxygen and nutrients from the blood are reduced, and the removal of noxious waste products by the lymphatic system becomes less efficient. The result? Muscles that become exhausted, irritated, possibly inflamed, and painful.

This is also the start of a vicious cycle - the pain and spasm cycle. When we feel pain, our muscles contract, and contracted muscles cause more pain. So our muscles contract further, there's more pain, and so it goes on.

Over time, if not addressed, chronic muscle tension causes other changes in the muscle tissues, which become stiff and hardened (and sometimes stuck together), a process called fibrosis.  These small areas of bunched, hardened muscle fibres are those hard, crunchy, tender areas that either you can feel when you rub your own sore shoulders or calves or when I treat and massage. 

PLUS, sometimes the nervous system’s involvement will add another layer of pain, as palpable nodules of contracted muscle tissue become Trigger Points, which can refer pain to distant parts of the body.

As a Sports Massage and Remedial Therapist treating these “knots” is all in a day's work.  This kind of soft tissue dysfunction is what massage was created for.  Chronic muscle tension, fibrosis and Trigger Points respond fantastically well to the right massage treatment!