Often clients come to see me for massage while experiencing pain and muscle dysfunction. They often want to know what causes this, and rightly so! How do our bodies “knot up”? What does that even mean? Why do we experience an imbalance in the musculature of the body? Furthermore, what can we do to address this and prevent future knots and imbalances from forming?
For starters, let’s address what a knot is. Each muscle is made up of many small fibers. When these fibers get overused or injured they begin to stick together causing adhesions. This lumpy tissue is known as a knot. Another way we get knots is when cellular debris, such as lactic acid, is no longer able to flush from the muscles on its own. So what causes this? Repetitive strain or overuse of the muscles. Think heavy weight lifting, but also things we do often in daily life; driving, talking on the phone, carrying heavy bags or kids. You get the idea - major repetition. Also, adhering to a sedentary lifestyle and dehydration play a huge role in the formation of knots, as does a toxic body.
That may seem rather obvious to you. Strain/injury = dysfunction. What may surprise you, however, is that stress causes just as much, if not more, dysfunction to the muscles. Chronic mental and emotional stress carries a huge burden to our physical bodies. When we are living in a state of “fight or flight”, our bodies produce extra cortisol, a hormone produced by the body. In small amounts, cortisol is beneficial to the body. It helps regulate blood sugar, suppress the immune system, and aids in the metabolism of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. However, when our body is under constant stress, real or perceived, our body produces exorbitant amounts of cortisol which leads to a whole host of issues, including knots in our muscles. These can be a real pain in the neck!
So now that we know what knots are and what causes them, what can we do to get rid of them and prevent their return?
Follow these simple steps and you will live pain free, have better range of motion, and have an overall sense of freedom in your body.
Hydrate: It is important to stay hydrated. Too much caffeine, stress, the wrong foods, and some medications actually deplete the body of water. They also tax the kidneys which are important for excreting waste from the body. How much water you may ask? Aim for at least ½ your body weight in ounces. Example: A 150 lb person should drink 75 ounces of water per day. Keep in mind that herbal tea, fruits, and veggies add to your water intake!
Reduce emotional stress: Easier said than done, right?! If we could snap our fingers to rid ourselves of stress, we would all do it. No one likes being stressed. We each find different ways to cope. Find healthy alternatives that you enjoy. Examples: get a massage, take a walk, meditate, do yoga, go for a hike, laugh. You get the picture.
Stretch: We all know it is just as important as the workout itself. So why do we skip it? Most of us don’t want to take the extra 5 minutes to cool down properly. By skipping this, we leave ourselves prone to extra lactic acid in the muscles and a shortening of the muscle fibers. Incorporating yoga into your fitness regime will eliminate this problem. Yoga is one of the best ways to counteract weight bearing exercise, running and other vigorous cardio activities, and of course the day to day physical stressors we all encounter.
Massage Therapy: Seeing a massage therapist is a great way to manually drain the tissue of cellular debris. This waste gets pushed back into the lymph system where the body can then eliminate by way of the kidneys. Massage should be incorporated into everyone’s self-care program. Whether you get them weekly, monthly, or quarterly is up to you and your budget, but don’t neglect the amazing benefits of this healing modality. It is so much more than just a luxury!
~Be wise, Be well!