What Are ‘Knots’ And How Can They Be Treated?
An article about the common ways trigger points are treated in massage therapy
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SE/SW Calgary Chiropractic Clinic we often hear patients complain about ‘knots’ being the source of most of their pain. These ‘knots’ can sometimes be irritated or strained muscles, but sometimes those commonly named knots, are actually Trigger Points. Trigger Points feel like knots in our muscles because they are muscle cells stuck in a contraction, so they literally are bigger than our other muscle cells, so it can feel like a big ‘knot’. Trigger points are caused by a variety of things, sometimes the muscle itself has been injured and the body creates trigger points, and other times the muscles are just stressed or overworked, and they get stuck in a contraction.
When stuck in a contraction, that area of the muscle becomes painful because the tissue does not function properly, and it is therefore very difficult for the blood to flow freely, so as a result the tissue becomes unhealthy. One of the ways to treat Trigger Points that is commonly used by physiotherapists and can be used by massage therapist is the “Tens Machine”. The TENS machine works in a few ways, but basically tries to interfere with pain signals. With low pulses, it can make the body create its own pain easing chemicals, and this makes you able to function better after treatments. If you are getting this treatment it is best to be followed by a massage or moderately intense physical activity to get the blood flowing to the area. Your muscles may relax due to not feeling pain, but the trigger points will still be semi-contracted. When a muscle has been in a contractile state with trigger points for a long period of time, having the muscles and trigger points released can release built up toxins that need to be flushed out for best results. There is another way that massage therapists can treat Trigger Points as well, using a technique called trigger point release.
Trigger point release is a technique that can be a bit more uncomfortable because it is intense, but the duration is short and it often yields better results because it doesn’t exhaust the entire muscle. Trigger point release is when the therapist applies intense pressure to the trigger point for around 5-10 seconds until the muscle relaxes. Then the therapist can flush out the inflammation and fluids in the muscle. Why this works is because your muscles have cells called muscle spindle cells, which tell the muscle whether to relax or contract. In everyday life when you are moving your muscles relax and contract to create movement, and the spindles monitor tension in order to create injuries. Without these mechanisms we would have sprains, tendonitis, and dislocations almost constantly. By applying pressure on these trigger points, the muscles will be tricked into relaxing, and the therapist can flush out the tissues and prevent your muscles from knotting again.
Massage therapy is a great way to release the discomfort of trigger points. Because muscles have memory, consistent massage is needed to achieve long term results. Muscle memory is a wonderful thing, without it we would never achieve greatness in activities such as running, yoga, and even playing guitar. When the muscles get use to a certain activity it recognizes the motion. Unfortunately this is what also makes muscles tighten, and create chronic trigger points. Regular massage therefore can help form a new muscle memory. This also helps to prevent trigger points from forming in other muscle tissue in the body.