Take a rope as an example, what happens when you swing it abruptly? There appears a knot!In a similar way, knots also appear in our muscles when we use them extensively or after a heavy workout. Surprisingly, no one knows the exact scientific reason of what knots are and why they appear in a muscle fiber. However, some believe that they are small over-contracted areas in the muscle.

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According to dictionary muscle knots are “highly irritable localized spots of exquisite tenderness in a nodule in palpable taut bands of muscle tissue”, seems overly complicated!!! Let me explain you in a better way, according to my research “trigger points” or more specifically called “muscles knots” are the small over-tensed areas that appear in the muscles when they are tensed or contracted repeatedly, often accompanied by pain. So what causes these solid nodules to form in a muscle?

What causes muscle knots?

Before proceeding let me tell you a little about muscle tissue. Muscle fibers are placed in layers upon each other and their direction varies depending on the area, i.e. some fibers run in parallel, some horizontal while other obliquely etc. Direction of layered muscular fibers is very important in sustaining normal lifestyle as it is the reason why we stand erect, bend forward, downward or sideways, twist, play different sports and perform various activities. So whenever the direction of these fibers is altered, they tend to criss-cross, resulting in the formation of muscle knots.

Some of the major underlying causes of knot formation are:

  • Accidents – injuries such as sports or fall injuries or even acute trauma that strain your muscles
  • Postural stress – maintaining a constant posture for a longer period of time such as constant standing, sitting without any support at the back and postures that compromise blood flow. (Mainly seen in office employees)
  • Over stimulation – Strenuous exercise like heavy workouts or labor and sports training (especially weight lifting or pushing games like tennis).
  • Dehydration – Loss or inadequate take of water results in decreased elasticity in muscle fibers that further leads to formation of knots
  • Conditions and Diseases – conditions like prolonged rest e.g., post-operative bed rest and certain diseases like tetany, epilepsy, tetanus etc. that directly involves muscular spasm.

How to prevent muscle knots?

If you are careful with your body, you are less likely to suffer from injuries. Knots are preventable and require little care. Following are some suggestion that will help keep you free from muscle knots.

Hydration

Remember that old maxim “8 glass of water a day, keeps the diseases away”. Adequate hydration prevents hardening of muscle fibers and restores their elasticity. Avoid dehydration as much as possible if you are experiencing frequent muscle knots.

Take breaks

Appearance of muscle knots in chronic sitters (like in front of computer or TV, office workers and young adults staring down at their cell phones) is becoming a big issue these days. Its prevention is simple, take short breaks and stretch your body frequently.

Diet control

Excessive use of alcohol and cigarette can cause narrowing blood vessels as well as loss of elasticity from muscle fibers. Junk foods like baked products and fast food cause increase in salt content of the blood and salt retention from kidneys both of which contribute to dehydration.

SMR (self myofascial release)

It is a special technique to get rid of trigger points. As its name indicated, SMR is a self-administered technique in which body muscles (knots) are pressed against pressure using foam rollers or rubber balls. Beside SMR, simple massage is also recommended by physiotherapists to reduce pain associated with knots.

Conclusions: What Are Muscle Knots and How to Deal with Them

Muscle knots are no fun especially when these co-exist with severe pain and numbness. Adequate water intake, proper exercise, diet control and other precautionary measures discussed above are the best ways to prevent the formation of muscle knots. Now that you know what they are, their contributory factors, prevention and treatment, you are well on your way to feeling a whole lot better.