According to a 2014 clinical research study completed at the Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study of George Mason University, up to 85% of the global population has experienced the myofascial pain condition known as muscle knots. While this condition is mostly caused by repetitive strain, overloading of muscle activity, and intense exercise, there are a few other reasons why knotting of the muscles occurs in patients who are not professional athletes, and these include the following:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Aging processes
- Inadequate nutrition
Muscle knots are similar to muscle spasms, but only to a certain extent; they are more common, and their potential for causing discomfort can range from nagging pain to not being able to function. Having to constantly deal with knotted muscles is a literal pain, especially when they are severe enough to reduce the quality of life. Chiropractic care is the most common recommendation made to patients whose muscle knot conditions persist, and it helps to understand why this recommendation makes perfect sense.
How Muscle Knots Develop
Most muscle knots are normally felt in the midsection, upper body, and upper extremities. While this condition can also develop in the lower extremities, it is not as common because the legs are more prone to muscle spasms.
There are various pathologies that can result in “knotted” muscle tissue. It is not unusual for muscle knots to develop when the musculoskeletal system has been overused and put under strain. The overuse is usually the result of a prolonged sitting or standing position, although muscle knots can also develop as a result of activities that involve heavy lifting and constant twisting and turning of the upper body. It has been estimated that almost everyone will have some degree of muscle knots in their lifetime; many of them, however, can be effectively and permanently resolved through an appropriate course of chiropractic care.
Placing too much stress on the muscle tissue often results in muscle knots; they tend to develop when muscles are overused, which causes the amount of lactic acid produced by the muscles to build up. Lactic acid is a waste product of the body’s energy metabolism; when it is in constant production, it has nowhere to go but to build up and collect in certain locations. In some cases, this accumulation of lactic acid can cause the muscles to contract, which can lead to muscle knots.
This condition is most prevalent in women, especially women who engage in activities that require intense physical activity for prolonged periods of time. The stress-induced muscle knot problem can sometimes be exacerbated by lack of sleep, malnutrition, dehydration, and some medications. Achieving a good night’s rest can sometimes be a great remedy for any type of muscle knot condition as it helps the body to properly repair and rebuild muscle fibers.
The medical term for muscle knots is myofascial trigger points. Professional athletes often get muscle knots because of a sprain, strain, or trauma to the musculoskeletal system. According to multiple studies, 90% of the population will experience this type of pain at some point in their lives. Muscle knots may occur at the end of bones, tendons, and spinal vertebrae. They can also affect the body’s tissue in between those points, creating a general condition that is often difficult to treat, particularly when they are caused by an injury as well as an accumulation of stress that builds up within a muscle’s structure, causing the body to take corrective measures to protect itself.
Symptoms of Knotted Muscles
If not for the pain they cause, which tends to be as sharp and annoying as a pinched nerve, myofascial trigger points would not be so bothersome. Muscle knots often present symptoms that preclude the pain, and they include the following:
- Sudden and unexpected twitching in small sections of muscle tissue.
- Feeling a small lump or a hard point just beneath the surface of the skin. Unlike swelling, which can be supple, muscle knots feel rigid.
- Tension headaches or sharp aches emanating from knots in the upper back or shoulder regions.
- Tightness in the lower back.
When myofascial pain is caused by musculoskeletal injury or repetitive strain, the symptoms will differ from those felt by patients who have underlying conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, or compromised immune systems. The same can be said about muscle knots that develop over time as a result of inadequate posture. The difference is mostly centered on how the pain is perceived; in the case of knotting because of physical activity, the pain is sharper but not constant. Knotting caused by underlying chronic conditions tends to feel dull and prolonged.
Chiropractic Treatments for Muscle Knots
Unlike other conditions that chiropractic professionals usually treat, muscle knots are fairly easy to diagnose. Subjective input from patients is key in this evaluation; if you say that your muscles feel like they are tied up into hard knots, there is a pretty good chance that you have myofascial trigger points because they generate a unique and self-explanatory kind of pain. Diagnostic imaging is not usually needed unless the knots you feel are on one or both sides of the lower back; in this case, there may be an issue with spinal discs or subluxation. This does not necessarily mean that bulging or herniated discs are being mistaken for muscle knots.
If spinal subluxation is causing muscle knots, or if the trigger points are hurting at the same time your spinal nerve clusters are under pressure, the most likely course of action would be to take care of this issue first. Spinal adjustment on its own may alleviate the knotting pain. Absent disc problems or spinal misalignment, the chiropractic techniques normally applied to muscle knots include heat packs, therapeutic massage, stretching, physical therapy, and adjustment of the joints.
Therapy intended to alleviate muscle knot pain may require some sessions in a clinical setting, but most of it can be completed by patients at home, particularly the prescribed exercises and focused stretching. Over-the-counter medications for pain relief and inflammation may be recommended. It may not take long at all to alleviate muscle knots caused by overexertion or injury; on the other hand, when knotting is linked to rheumatoid arthritis or other chronic conditions, chiropractic care may need to be applied on a long-term basis as part of a holistic treatment plan.
Muscle Knots Can be Prevented
Living a life free from muscle knots is possible for many patients; in fact, this is something chiropractic care professionals are dedicated to teaching. When you are treated at Integrative Physical Health for muscle knots, the chiropractor will tell you how you can avoid knots from developing based on your posture, gait, balance, spinal health, fitness level, body mechanics, and medical condition.
It is important to note that muscle knots can be prevented from a physical conditioning point of view. When lactic acid dysfunction is caused by underlying health issues, they need to be mitigated instead. Notwithstanding this distinction, the ways to prevent or mitigate muscle knots are the same, and they start with proper posture. First-time chiropractic patients are often surprised by the various dimensions of posture and how they can impact overall health. For example, if you work at a desk job for several hours each day, prolonged slouching of only fractions of an inch can result in knotting of the muscle tissue around the neck, shoulders, and lumbar area.
Physical activity can go a long way to prevent and heal muscle knots, but only if it is balanced. This means combining workouts with various activities such as jogging, swimming, team sports, body weight exercises, stretching, and others. You don’t always have to go hard in each and every exercise session; if you max out to the point of exertion each time, muscle knots will eventually develop unless you increase the intensity gradually and with at least one day of rest in between.
When you feel muscle knots, you may also notice muscle soreness, which is a natural sign of overtraining and should be addressed if you are a fitness fanatic already in the middle of a workout session. Muscle soreness is a result of lactic acid buildup from the exercise; it can occur when you perform an intense activity, in particular, if you perform it too often. This is a sign you should adjust your conditioning, which is something that chiropractors can certainly help you with.