Posted by: stgeorgemassage | August 16, 2016

Don’t Be Knotty

Rear view of a young man holding his neck in pain, isolated on w

Rear view of a young man holding her neck in pain, isolated on white background, monochrome photo with red as a symbol for the hardening

trapezius

Everyone that comes in for a massage refers to the “knots” in their muscles. Not a very technical or scientific term, but everyone knows what they mean. If we understand what these knots are and how they form, perhaps we can take measures to prevent them.

So first, lets start by calling them by their technical name, “Trigger Points”. Trigger points are formed in the muscle tissue as part of the bodies defense mechanism. Wherever the body senses damage, trauma, stress or weakness it throws additional tissue at the site of damage in order to repair the perceived damage or to reinforce perceived weakness. This tissue is what is called “connective tissue” made up of collagen or elastin fibers. A good example of this is callous tissue, such as what forms on the hands to toughen them when exposed to hard repetitive work, such as digging in the garden. When we need tough hands the callouses form and when we stop they eventually disappear. The same is true of the trigger points in the muscles. The good news is they can also disappear when they are no longer needed or when the body no longer senses stress in that area.
The bad news is that the body is drama queen that tends to overreact when forming these trigger points. So in many cases the cure (formation of the protective tissue) is worse than the disease. The extra tissue that acts as the bodies bandage, restricts blood flow to the tissue. This actually inhibits restoring the tissue to normal by inhibiting proper cell regeneration. Manual manipulation of these points helps to break up the tissue and speed the cell growth needed for recovery.
Along with everything else, trigger points are known to refer pain to other parts of the body. So a trigger point in the upper back or neck may be the reason behind head ache pain, for example. Treating just the head ache and not the source of the pain usually results in no relief at all. Others may even mimic athe symptoms of a heart attack. In one way or another. the body will try to get our attention in order to change the activity that is causing the damage.
Even though we have always known about knotty muscles, the science of identifying and treating them as trigger points is relatively new. Dr. Janet G. Travell, who was White House Physician to John F. Kennedy, was a pioneer in researching and developing Trigger Point therapy which is now widely recognized and used by Medical Doctors, Physical Therapists, Chiropractors, and Massage Therapists.
What her research showed is that we all have similar muscle structure so that the formation of these points and how they interact with the body is consistent from person to person. Since we all have the same muscles then “X” marks the spot on each of us. What varies from person to person is the degree or severity of the trigger point because of the activity that causes these points to form will vary from person to person.
I hope that now that you know more about these “Knots” and why they form that you will take hope in knowing that there is a way of treating them. It is important to know that by having better form or posture when you move, you can eliminate the need for the body to form trigger points.
It’s kind of like the old joke:
Patient: “Doctor, it hurts when I move my arm like this”.
Doctor: “Then don’t do that. That will be $25.00.”
If you understand that what you do causes the stress that forms knots in the muscles, then maybe you will stop doing the things that cause stress to the tissue. Until then, it’s a good thing that Massage Therapists are experts at untying knots!
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