I get this question a lot. Why do I have knots? What can I do to NOT get knots? I cannot tell you how often I wish I had an MRI machine embedded in my brain. I’d love to see every muscle, scar, tear, break, and knot. It would be my super power (and flying – I mean flying is a super power given right?). Alas, all I can do is feel. I’ve been praised with giving a very intuitive massage and I hear so often, “You found every place that hurt!” Even that magical MRI wouldn’t be able to see the cause of the issue: be it physical or emotional. Let’s get technical for a moment. Here’s a little groundwork that explains your body1:
Fascia is a type of connective tissue (the most abundant tissue type in the body) that possesses two physical states: Sol state and Gel state. Massage can change the fascia from the more gelatinous Gel state to the more pliant and elastic Sol state. When in the Sol state, the fascia allows muscles and trigger points to be manipulated. Hydration is key to helping the transformation between the two states.
Muscles allow the body to move, maintain posture, and produce heat. They respond to signals from the nervous system.
A spasm is a localized muscle contraction, usually caused by the stress of a minor injury like a strain or contusion. When the neurological stimulation causing the spasm is repeated in succession, a knot may form in part or all of the muscle.
Trigger points are similar to spasms, but can be found in muscle, tendons, fascia, and ligaments. However, trigger points in the muscle are basically neurochemical events that cause fibers to stick together creating a knot or rigid zone.
Now for the why: When I say, “I don’t know,” or “you can’t do anything to stop them,” I see the disappointment on your face. I answer that way because there are SO many reasons you may be experiencing pain. Most are daily activities. Here are a few:
Fine motor movements: keyboarding or playing a musical instrument require your body to perform movements of constant fine motor control while maintaining posture.
Gross motor movements: yard work, sports, or exercise that use large muscle groups.
Posture: Yep, we don’t think about it, but resisting the force of gravity is work for our bodies.
Stress and Fatigue: Anxiety and depression. A muscle will spasm in response to stress like it will to a physical injury. The stress may be emotional or physical.
Inactivity: Sorry, if you do nothing at all, ever, you will not avoid the pain. Think about it: when you have been lying or sitting for an extended period of time you get up with pain and stiffness.
Direct trauma, disease, and disorders: From a slip and fall or car accident to fibromyalgia or arthritis, the body reacts to all of these conditions.
So how do you fix it? I feel a teeny tiny bit bad when I say, “massage,” (sometimes I get actual eye rolling and an “of course,” from people when I say “massage”) but massages will truly help. They aid in circulation, loosening that fascia so your muscles move more freely, and releasing those knots that are causing you discomfort. The list of benefits is endless: both physical and emotional. Here are a few other helpful tips to keep you going between your massage sessions:
Everything in Moderation: The two worst things for your body are over use and no use.
Drink Water: Because I said so. The rule of thumb is 0.5oz per pound of your body weight. So if you weigh 130lbs, you should be drinking 65oz of water per day (that’s about eight, 8oz glasses). No. Coffee is not water. No. Soda is not water.
Warm Up Properly: If you don’t warm up prior to exercise you risk muscular tears and facial restrictions that will limit performance. Give yourself a minimum of 5-10 minutes of warm up. It’s worth it.
Try to be Healthy: Good nutrition promotes healing. Excessive use of alcohol or barbiturates slow metabolism. Disease or habits may decrease oxygen supply: smoking, diabetes, sleep apnea.
Circulation: Promoting good circulation is so important for tissue healing. Circulation delivers oxygen and removes waste-product. Massage is great for circulation. So is a healthy diet, drinking water, not smoking, and managing stress.
The body is an amazing thing. Be kind to it. Be kind to yourself. You will be rewarded.
1 Salvo, S. Massage Therapy Principles and Practice. Third Edition (2007).