“I have a knot in my neck” and other strange things we say but don’t really understand.
We all have “knots” in our muscles. Being a massage therapist, knots are an issue I work with every day. The particularly irritating knots are easily noticed; they keep us from turning our head or sleeping in a certain position. Then there are the stealth knots that we never knew we had until somebody presses on them.
What exactly is a knot? More importantly, how do we get rid of them?
In the medical world, you hear them referred to as “Myofascial Trigger Points”. When studying therapeutic massage in college, the simplest definition we used for trigger points was “Hyperirritable spots in the muscle tissue that causes muscle pain.” These points come into existence for a number of reasons including muscle use, posture, tension and nutrition. Your muscles shouldn’t be always active. Muscles work in pairs; in harmonic balance. When you flex your biceps to “show off your guns”, your body automatically relaxes your triceps. A knot happens when part of the relaxed, or “antagonist”, muscle is active when it shouldn’t be.
There are many ways to make knots go away. When you had an “owie” as a child, mom rubbed it and it felt better. Believe it or not, that still works! You can massage your own knots. Harder to reach and pesky knots may require help. A licensed massage therapist learned neuromuscular techniques that help you ease this type of discomfort. Your stretching and water regiment can help, as can heat and cold therapies. Consult your physician for potential nutritional or pharmaceutical solutions.
You can also take measures to minimize the knots you do get. Pay attention to your body. Do you walk hunched over? When you are at work, are you sitting up straight with your head in a neutral position or are you slouching? Are you stretching before physical activity? How often do you strain to do something? How abrupt do you start or stop, lift or drop?
If you do get a knot you can’t get out on your own, it isn’t the end of the world. Visit your local massage therapist. Massage therapists can work with you to minimize any discomfort. Long strokes, gentle pressure, and easing into a therapy can make the massage as relaxing as it is therapeutic!