By: Nichole Chaviano, PT, DPT
You’ve had a particularly hard week at work and now your “all knotted up.” What does this actually mean? And more importantly how can you get rid of this literal pain in the butt? (Or back!)
Surprisingly, there is still debate by medical professionals about what a knot is definitively made of, but most experts believe the knots are specific areas of contraction of muscle fiber, otherwise referred to as a trigger point.
To understand trigger points we must first understand muscle fiber.
Muscle fibers run in many directions, they are also layered on top of each other from head to toe in the human body. This layering and pliability keep our muscles strong when challenged by twisting, bending and even dancing! When we move less either due to immobility from injury or simply sitting at your work desk too long the faulty biomechanics create an increase in muscle tension that can block normal blood flow and the muscle fibers start to stick together and create these trigger points.
Despite being extremely common, muscle knots are not normal or harmless and have the potential to lead to irreversible damage to the muscle tissue. Before you panic, here are simple tools to help prevent and treat these trigger points.
Diet & Hydration– Most of us don’t get enough to drink, it is important to drink water throughout the day, especially if you are more prone to these trigger points. Eating a healthy diet is also important; avoid excess sugar, processed foods and fast foods while increasing your calcium intake with supplements or foods high in calcium such leafy greens.
Exercise– It is important to exercise 5-7 days a week for many health benefits but you cant skimp on the stretching. Spend the extra 5 minutes and your body will thank you for it.
Keep moving- If your job is primarily sedentary it is important to take frequent breaks and walk around. If you cant walk around, frequently shift your body position at your desk. In addition, improving you sitting posture can provide you with immediate relief of many symptoms.
**Try sitting on a stability ball or even a standing working station if you’re feeling adventurous.
Rest- Removing many of the stressors in your life including those irritating positions or movements is the first step in decreasing the tension.
Physical Therapy- Trigger points have underlying causes that your PT will help to identify and correct. In addition to manual treatment of massage, joint mobilization and stretching, they will administer individualized exercises and stretches to relieve the tension and prevent its reoccurrence.
Massage Therapy- Clinical Massage Therapists can not only manually break up the adhesions and relieve the muscle pain but can be utilized as a great prevention strategy to keep your muscles supple.
Acupuncture- Acupuncturists are trained to seek to generate, involuntary twitching from the suspect muscle which quickly leads to an immediate reduction of the tight musculature as well as a helps to eliminate some of the related problems.
Chiropractic Care- Since it is rare to have muscular conditions without underlying spinal joint dysfunction, receiving regular adjustments keeps everything moving as it should and minimizes the acute cases of trigger points.
Now that you have a better understanding of what muscle knots are you can start effectively dealing with them! Begin with improving your posture, incorporating stretching into your daily routine and drinking lots of water but if you’re still dealing with these pesky trigger points seek help from the professionals to feel better quickly and reduce your future risk.