If you have ever been for a massage, then you may have been told by your masseuse that you have ‘knots’ in your muscles. They will then probably have proceeded to jam their fingers hard into your sensitive soft tissue resulting in great pain, followed by a sense of relief.
Many of us have jumped on this idea, and when providing our partners with back rubs we’ll often tell them with authority that we’ve ‘found a knot’ before proceeding to do the same tissue-prodding, often with less favourable results.
But what precisely are these knots? And how does pressing on them result in any health benefits? Read on and we’ll take a look at precisely how these knots form, what they are, and how best to treat them and thus reduce discomfort.
What Are Knots?
When you decide you want to move your arm, leg or any other body part, you will do so by sending an electrical signal through your nervous system to that part of the body. When you do this, the impulse will travel down to the end of the nerve and reach the ‘motor end plate’. This motor end plate then responds by releasing chemicals which the muscles interpret as an indication to shorten or lengthen.
One of these chemicals is calcium, and in some cases the muscle fibres can struggle to flush all of the calcium out afterwards due to small amounts of damage. This in turn then leads to the muscle reading a ‘false positive’ as it believes it is receiving a continuous signal and as such, it causes a very small amount of tension in just that specific location. This tension is too small to result in visible movement, but it is enough to cause tension across the surface of the muscle resulting in restricted movement and even some pain.
How to Tell a Knot and What to Do With One
If you find a knot in the muscle, then it will feel like a small ‘lump’ just under the surface of the skin in the muscle – literally as though one small ‘node’ in the muscle is tensed while all the rest is relaxed.
What’s important to note though, is that not all lumps around the body are going to be knots. Sometimes you can get cysts under the skin, and rubbing these isn’t going to do anything to improve matters (often cysts are harmless, but if you’re worried then you should consult with a doctor).
If you do find a knot, then it should be somewhat tender to the touch. When you press on it, it might spasm and it might lead to referred pain that is felt shooting down the limb. Manipulate it firmly until the lump is gone and the remaining area is soft and you should then find you remove the pain and improve your muscular function as a result.
If you can’t find a partner willing to massage the knot out for you, you can always try doing it yourself with a ‘foam roller’ or even with just a rubber ball.