Often felt in the back or neck and shoulder area many of us a familiar with muscle knots. These hard bits of painful tissue can be debilitating and appear overnight it seems.
Surprisingly, no one knows definitively what muscle knots are made of — and some researchers question whether they even exist at all. I’m sure my next client who yelps when I massage out one of these will be relieved to know it’s a figment of their imagination!!!
Many experts believe that the knots, often referred to as myofascial trigger points, are “specific areas of contraction within the muscle fibre,” says Rob Grieve, a senior lecturer in physiotherapy at the University of the West of England in Bristol, England, who has studied the phenomenon.
The knots seem to develop when a muscle tenses repeatedly and “are normally not caused by a specific, traumatic event,” he adds, “but by muscle overuse or faulty biomechanics.” (This is also known as slouching.)
Another thought is that these areas of tensed muscle fibre cause the pain and discomfort we associate with them by “blocking some of the normal blood flow to the affected tissue” according to Jan Dommerholt, a physical therapist in Bethesda, Md., who studiesand treats muscle knots.
However scientists in Australia and the US have reported that because muscle knots are rarely visible on scans this leads researchers to declare that there is “no scientific basis” for believing that knotted muscle fibres cause us to experience soreness. The researchers have stated that this soreness is likely to be neural – involving the brain and irritated nerve endings.
Therapists often feel the best treatment for muscle knots is to “pummel them” (vigorously massage the knot). My approach is different. Yes I need to massage the area but there is no point, in my opinion, to go “hell for leather” as this just makes the client tense and cause more pain. My method is to go in slowly, gently, teasing the fibres, luring them in to a sense of security; so they (and the client) relax and give in! I do apply bio-freeze if they prove to be a little stubborn. This helps numb the area sufficiently and temporarily whilst I massage and calm the fibres. I also do not concentrate on the problem area alone. I massage a bit, then come away and do a different area, then back to the problem for a bit more. This I continue to do until eventually the area that felt like concrete to me and was unbelievably painful to the client, becomes soft and malleable and whilst it might feel a little sore due to the treatment, it is nothing like the pain they came in with.
I do remember one client a few years ago asking about knots and wondered to me “how does the muscle tie itself like that”. She actually thought there was a physical knot in the muscle. I explained this was not physically possible and had to go in to a bit of anatomy regarding origin and insertion of muscles so that she understood that muscles can never be in a real knot, it’s just a term people use. I am not sure she believed me but I guess not everyone studies anatomy and physiology and she was content to leave my treatment room pain free and indeed knot free.
If you experience these painful knots please contact me to book an appointment on 0208 372 2942 or 07887 865203.
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