Knots in Muscles – What’s Going on?
When you have a focused area of pain in a muscle, it is often referred to as a knot and the discomfort can radiate outwards, above, below or to the sides. Pulling forces between muscles/ connective tissue are continuous along different lines of the body; up the back, the front and obliquely or cross body so it is helpful to think globally as well as locally.
So, what is a knot? The technical term as an adhesion, which is an area of chronically contracted muscle tissue which can remain in a permanently semi contractile state.
What causes it? A common cause is poor posture which places an undue strain on certain muscles, another cause is repetitive movement patterns; these factors will shorten muscles and over time, they may become chronically short, presenting texturally with more fibrous tissues (adhesions) and result in dysfunctional movement patterns.
Muscle Types: We have both postural and phasic which contain slow and fast twitch fibres respectively. Postural muscles work at a lower intensity under normal conditions and are capable of low intensity sustained work. Phasic muscles create more dynamic movement and tire more quickly. Postural muscles are more prone to shortening and tightening, phasic muscles are more prone to lengthening and weakening which I will explain further; every muscle has an opposing one and the relationship is like a mechanical pulley system or more crudely, a tug of war! If one side shortens and tightens, the opposite will be pulled long and reciprocally weaken. It is worth mentioning that a reciprocally weakened muscle cannot be effectively strengthened until the short side has been lengthened.
Ischemia: A fancy term for reduced blood flow to an organ muscle or body part. In this context it is relevant as when a muscle is contracts above 10% for a sustained period, blood flow is significantly reduced, depriving the muscle tissues of oxygen and nutrients which are essential for optimal health.
Solutions: Massage and careful stretching will help to separate out the bundled together fibres. I have found muscle energy techniques (a therapist applied stretching method) and trigger point therapy (sustained, focused pressure to the affected area) very effective in releasing adhesions and restoring normal movement in combination with careful yoga exercises to consolidate the work.
The magic quality of release happens best when the client can ‘breathe in’ to the work, using the out breath as a tool of surrender as opposed to bracing against impact. A good therapist will observe and sense the pressure or degree of stretch a client can sustain whilst still yielding. When the yield happens, a little more pressure can be applied, it is a game of patience and clear communication between client and therapist.
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Go well. Will