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Answers from a Massage Therapist, part 1: What is a knot?

Have you ever questioned what it means when you have a “knot” in your muscle? Wondered why the area your massage therapist is working on is more sensitive than other areas?  Thought about why you have shooting pains? Here are the answers from a massage therapist.

Muscle “knots” are extremely common, but common doesn’t mean they are normal or harmless. Research as far back as 1843 found tender, tight cords or bands in the muscles. Froriep, a pre-20th century author, named them “muscle calluses” and discovered that treating them would bring much relief to the patient. The research on myofascial pain has been ongoing throughout the last century. The most recent and well-respected research on what are now termed “myofascial trigger points”, is from Janet G. Travell M.D. and David G. Simons M.D. who put together two volumes of the most accurate and in-depth information about trigger points, their cause and treatments.

A “knot” is referred to as a “trigger point” among bodyworkers and is known to cause chronic pain, restriction of movement, and distortion of posture. A few characteristics of a trigger point include:

  • Various muscle fibers sticking to each other to become adhered shortened tissue
  • Hard, sensitive areas of muscle that tighten and are contracted even when the muscle is at rest
  • Tense muscle fibers that cause pain to be referred to other areas of the body when activated or touched.
  • Hyperirritable spots or adhesions in fascia tissue
  • Can occur at any part of the body

Some of the factors or activity patterns that can cause or reignite a trigger point include:

  • Automobile accidents
  • Birthing trauma
  • Injuries
  • Emotionally charged events
  • Ergonomically-incorrect work stations
  • Overtraining, improper form
  • Broken-down shoes
  • Lack of sleep or sleep disorders
  • Dehydration or mineral deficiency
  • Postural issues
  • Inactivity


Here is the good news- there are many things you can do to get rid of any trigger points you may have and prevent new knots from forming:

MASSAGE! There are several massage modalities and techniques that are fantastic for breaking up adhesions in fascia and lengthening shortened or contracted tissue. Massage is also one of the best ways to increase circulation. When fresh blood circulates into the muscle tissue, it brings in vital oxygen and nutrients that the muscles need to stay healthy.

HYDRATION! Making sure you drink plenty of water with electrolytes and adding healthy oils into your daily routine will keep your muscle fibers and fascia properly hydrated and keep them from sticking together and forming adhesions. This amount should increase after exercise, during times of warmer weather, and during detox or when you are ill.

STRETCHING! When you stretch it can help to loosen and lengthen muscles and tissue that is tight or contracted. Yoga can be a great way to do this. Incorporating a few minutes of stretching into your daily routine can make a big difference in your muscle health.

FOAM ROLLING! If done correctly, foam rolling can be very useful to soften the hard taught areas of muscle tissue and help break up surface level adhesions. This can also help ease pain caused by trigger points and tension.

MOVEMENT! After working out the trigger points the muscles should be moved through its full range of motion to reestablish its normal function. Additionally, some trigger points can form due to a stagnant lifestyle or long periods of inactivity.

More movement=more life!


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