The term knot is used often in terms of tight or sore muscles. People are constantly saying things like ‘I have a huge knot in my shoulder’ or ‘My back is full of knots’
But what does that really mean? Do muscles actually get knotted?
Well no, not really..
A muscle ‘knot’ is a term used for what therapists know as trigger points. These are all over your body and can cause a fair amount of pain. So what are trigger points?
Experts believe that trigger points are “specific areas of contraction within the muscle fibre,” said Rob Grieve, a senior lecturer in physiotherapy at the University of West England in Bristol, England, who has studied the phenomenon.
‘Knots’ or Trigger points develop when the muscle tenses repeatedly. It is thought that these small bits of hyper-tensed muscles cause pain and discomfort by restricting blood flow to there affected area of the tissue.
So how are trigger points formed?
Understanding what causes trigger points to occur and reoccur in the body’s muscles is crucial to achieving and maintaining a successful treatment.
The damage to the muscle and connective tissue that results in trigger points can occur in several ways:
Repetitive overuse (using the same body parts in the same way many times on a daily basis) these include activities such as typing, using a computer mouse, gardening, handheld electronics, sport, work environments etc.
Sustained loading with heavy lifting, carrying babies,
Poor posture due to sedentary lifestyles, de-conditioning and poorly designed furniture (i.e. office chairs)
Muscle clenching and tension due to mental and/or emotional stress
Direct injury - strain, sprain, twist, tear or blow
Inactivity - prolonged bed rest or sitting
Now that we know what trigger points are and how trigger points are formed lets have a quick look at they types.
After trigger points form they have two phases, Active and Latent.
Active trigger points are the ones that cause all the pain. They hurt when pressed with a finger or them and can send what is called ‘referred pain’ to other areas of the body. It causes a weakness in the muscle and have limited flexibility or movement due to the taught bands.
Active trigger points, when pressed usually cause a dull, deep ache like pain. It can also cause feeling such as burning and or numbness and fatigue.
When active trigger points are left untreated the other muscles around the area start to compensate and work harder to do the work the muscle with the trigger point is unable to do. This is a whole different problem and can cause secondary trigger points in other muscles.
Latent trigger points are more hidden, some having no referred pain at all so you don’t even know they are there. Most people don’t know they are sore in certain places unless you press on the area. Latent trigger points can secretly be there for years and can cause restricted movement, stiffness and weakness in the muscle and can distort the movement patterns. And you probably don’t even know they are doing it…
If you have ever suffered from muscle knots/trigger points you know what a pain they can be, you have also probably wondered why you get them, but more importantly… How do you get rid of them?
Deep Tissue Massage - Massage is not only great for prevention but a good clinical therapist can help relieve pain, break up adhesions and recommend self care exercises.
Dry needling - Dry needling is when you insert an acupuncture needle deep into the trigger point which causes a local twitch response. This is the muscle quickly contracting and relaxing.
Stretching - Gentle movements going through your full range of motion can he helpful but make sure you seek professional advice