These painful knots can be found throughout our muscles. There are more painful and less painful knots ranging in size from peas to avocados.
But how and why did they get there?
Wrong lifestyle usually plays a role in the formation of muscle knots. Such as overwrought, inadequate training form lack of stretching after exercise, but also overstretching. The strange posture due to muscle injuries and surgeries, unilateral load, the spinal disc herniation, lack of movement, monotonous physical work, the cold effect (air conditioning), dehydration, inadequate nutrition and many other reasons could be listed.
However, the most common causes are poor posture, long hours in your desk job, and the mental stress we experience daily. In all cases, muscle tension is the underlying cause.
Obviously, the muscle fibres haven’t literally tied themselves into the knots you’d get in a piece of string. What has happened, though, is that those muscle fibres have contracted (shortened) and then stayed shortened. The place this happens most noticeably is in the shoulder and neck area, where permanent (chronic) muscle tension can so easily build up, but it can occur anywhere in the body.
When muscle fibres 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. It is a defensive mechanism of the body, against the excessive exterior stimuli.
The result? Muscles that become exhausted, irritated, possibly inflamed, and painful. Which is 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. And there we have it. These small areas of bunched, hardened muscle fibres are those hard, crunchy, tender areas (‘knots’) that we find as we massage chronically tight muscles – or as you rub your own sore shoulders.
However, the muscle knots are not the same.
We can make a difference between tender and trigger points. The tender points are easier cases because they cause local pain. On the other hand, the trigger points radiate to farther points of the body, causing pain there. Because in this case the symptom and the cause are often far apart, we can easily misinterpret it. Pain in a joint or limb does not necessarily mean that the source of the problem is there, the root cause may be one of these trigger points. However, knowing these points will make it easy to locate and properly handle your complaint.
What can we do?
Massage can efficiently dissolve the formed muscle knots. This kind of soft tissue dysfunction is what it was created for. A professional treatment relieves these muscle spasms, restores muscle tone, function, and the pain goes away. Massage has a relaxing effect on the nervous system, reducing stressful conditions, which promotes healing.
Efficiency can also be increased by other treatments: physiotherapy, foam roller (SMR) and kinesiology tape.
In severe inflammatory processes, cannot be massaged immediately, until the inflammation subsides. Occasionally, an anti-inflammatory injection may be required to facilitate further treatment.
However, all treatments are useless and only help for a short time if we do not pay more attention to ourselves. We need to look at the source of the problem so we can avoid having them again. Changing lifestyles, developing and raising awareness of proper posture play an important role in preventing their relapse, regular exercise (swimming, yoga, pilates, physiotherapy), adequate fluid intake, more minerals and vitamins intake (magnesium, calcium, vitamin E).
Remember, prevention is always better than treatment.