All Knotted Up- What's a Knot!?
So you got your loaded nachos ready and your favorite TV show on- everything should be good except you got that stubborn pain in your back that wont go away. It's that kind of gnawing pain that keeps you from sleeping. It's a big nasty angry knot in your back that feels like it's running its own personal sauna- getting hotter and more intense as the day goes on.
It hurts when you press on this lump- and sometimes it shoots "fire cannons" to other places- radiating pain off yonder (this is called "referred pain"). What is this all about you say!?
As you might have already gathered, a knot is a painful area located in the muscle. When the muscle fibers and or fascia ( the substance that surrounds and holds the muscles together) get tight, it creates a knot. There are two types of knots.
When a knot causes referred pain, it is known as a myofascial trigger point. For example, someone may have a knot in their neck that refers pain to the head and causes headaches. Where you feel pain is not always where the problem is. In this case, the neck is the culprit for the headaches (the neck is notorious for causing headaches). Once the neck issues are addressed, typically the referred pain (in this case, the headaches) will go away. This is why it is a good idea to do what I call a holistic massage and address multiple areas to ensure finding and addressing the real issue at hand.
Tender points are knots that do not refer pain to other areas but they experience local pain when touched. Typically, people experience knots in their neck, back, shoulders, glutes (buttocks), and calves. Sometimes knots can even be found in the cheeks and cause jaw pain- who would have thought!?
Some Causes of knots are:
Crazy night of sleep (weird positions- and by the way, please do not use your arm as a pillow- this causes all sorts of problems)
Stress and tension/Excessive worrying
Laying in bed or sitting for long periods of time
Things that make people more prone to knots:
Those who work desk jobs or sit a lot or have sedentary lifestyles
Athletes who overuse muscles or do not stretch appropriately
People who suffer from insomnia
People who have mineral deficiencies
Dehydration can exacerbate pain and make it worse
Alternate ice/heat 10 min off and on ending with ice
If you have a sedentary lifestyle, add more stretches and workouts in your day
If you feel you are overusing a certain muscle group, give it rest (This goes for the gym goers too!)
If knots are stress induced- try meditation, a hot bath, yoga, etc. Bring peace in your life
Ibuprofen, or some other anti-inflammatory may help
Calcium, magnesium and zinc may help to relax the muscles and nerves
Soak in a bath with 1 cup of Epson salts for about 20-30 minutes
Gently massage the area or have someone massage it for you
Stay hydrated! -- and no, drinking soda does not count lol.
Many people ask me how many massages they should get. It's recommended to get at least one massage per month for maintenance and for more of a preventative approach. I tell my clients that whatever got them in pain in the first place was probably more of a chronic situation such as chronic stress, poor posture, weird sleeping positions, etc. Although one massage might help to reduce pain, getting on a more consistent massage routine will help to retrain the muscles and form better muscle memory and holding patterns. A massage routine will also help keep the overall muscle tension lower. When people go long periods of time with stressed and tight muscles, they are more susceptible to throwing out their back (or whatever muscle) over the smallest things (such as picking up a book.) This can lead to loss of function and mobility and more missed days at work- and although we would all like a little work break every now and then- how else are we going to afford those nachos?
Here's to happy backs and loaded nachos :)