When you think of massage, do you think of special occasions like Mother’s Day or Valentine’s Day? Do you think massage is just for people with injuries or people who have nothing better to spend their money on? Well, think again! In this day and age, massage is not a luxury anymore; it’s a necessity! Almost every person can benefit and needs a massage on a regular basis to prevent and help manage knots as well as overall tightness in muscle tissue throughout the body. Whatever your walk of life, stay at home mom, a person who travels or who sits at a desk all day long; we are all prone to these issues.
So, what are knots? According to 1Healthline, “muscles knots are hard, sensitive areas of muscles that tighten and contract even when the muscle is at rest.” Knots can also radiate pain to another part of the body. These are called trigger points. Skeletal muscle is made up of muscle tissue fiber, made of “small fiber like units called myofibrils, “as explained by 2Medeiros and Wildman, myofibrils break down into an even smaller unit which is called the sarcomere, the smallest unit of muscle tissue. Messages are sent to the sarcomere through nerve impulses that allow muscles to contract. Sarcomeres are stimulated by the regulation of calcium, both intracellularly and extracellularly. 3AMTA explains that when muscles are overworked, it can cause an “influx of calcium into the sarcomeres in the affected area which, in turn, causes the sarcomeres to contract.” This ultimately causes undue tension in muscle tissue fiber forming knots, which can eventually become trigger points.
You may be wondering what you are doing that would cause your muscles to be overworked or overloaded? It’s called life! Overworking our bodies physically is a common reason for these knots to develop, but also emotional stress, poor diet, and reduced water intake can be a factor. According to 4Medical News Today, common causes of muscle knots include “stress and tension, injuries related to lifting and repetitive motion, poor posture, prolonged bed rest or sitting without stretching.” Who doesn’t have stress in their life, whether it be at home, work or otherwise? Stress, among many other components, can deplete our body’s supply of minerals, which we desperately need for optimal organ and muscle function. Another reason why drinking enough quality (filtered or purified) water throughout the day is so important.
Not only does stress affect our muscles adversely, but also repetitive motion. Obvious examples of repetitive motion could include a worker on an assembly line or a builder using a hammer. However, a hardworking mom uses repetitive motion when rocking her baby to sleep, over and over again. A violinist uses her arms and shoulders in a repetitive motion performing in a concerto. Athletes use the same muscles repetitively, as well as the average person that works out using various exercise programs such as weight lifting, cross fit, cycling, Zumba, Insanity or P90X! The most overlooked way to develop knots is by just sitting at a desk without getting up to stretch and move around, which will reduce lymphatic flow and blood circulation, leading to muscle stiffness.
Now that we know what knots are and how we get them, let’s talk about how to manage them. Prevention is the best remedy! Drink half your body weight in water in ounces, generally no more than 100 ounces a day. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables that will naturally hydrate you, not to mention provide essential antioxidants and phytonutrients. Limit caffeine since this is a natural diuretic and causes frequent urination, which causes a loss of minerals.
Even with our best efforts to prevent knots, we will get them at some point. Consistent massage with a licensed massage therapist is absolutely essential to help loosen the knots and allow the tissue to return to a normal state. Massage therapists use various strokes and techniques, such as effleurage, petrissage, stripping, tapotement, as well as trigger point therapy and myofascial release. Massage will increase lymphatic movement and blood circulation, allowing toxins to be filtered and released through the lymph nodes, spleen, liver, and kidneys. 5Athletico Physical Therapy agrees that “massage is not just some occasional luxury saved for vacations and spa days. Massage therapy can help keep your muscles healthy, pliable, and oxygenated.” Licensed massage therapists are plentiful, whether in private practice or working at a spa and have hours and prices to accommodate anyone’s schedule or budget.
Start feeling better; schedule your massage today!