Bringing release to ‘knotty’ muscles

The muscle tension in a localized area where the muscle gets tight and the muscle tissue gets overexcited can cause pain and nerves to be pressured. According to Michael Johnson, a clinical massage therapist at UW Health, this can occur due to various reasons such as overuse, poor posture, stress, or repetitive strain. It is important to relax the muscle and not continue to work too hard, especially for athletes.

He observes that “headaches can be referred to the area around the scapular and trapezius muscles in the upper back, causing knots in some of the muscle.” The pain might not be confined solely to the tight muscle itself.

Painting is a profession that requires physically demanding work, often involving repetitive movements, such as hunching over a computer all day or rowing. Whether you’re playing sports or not, repetitive motion is a common culprit. According to Johnson, it typically results in muscle knots that commonly appear between the lower leg and upper back, as well as between the shoulder blades, but they can appear anywhere.

Johnson provides these recommendations for treating and preventing muscle knots:

You can use either ice or heat to treat a sore muscle. Alternate between packs of ice and heat to bring more relief, whichever seems to focus on relieving the pain.

Getting a Swedish massage or a deep-tissue massage can help relieve a difficult muscle knot, according to experts. A skilled massage therapist can not only identify visible muscle knots but also detect hidden trigger points that may be causing pain. Our bodies can experience tightness or restrictions in the connective tissue system, which can impact the muscles in that specific area or even in other areas, explains the therapist. The myofascial release theory views the connective tissue as a unified system encompassing each muscle. Johnson specializes in myofascial release and believes it can be particularly beneficial for muscle knots. There are various types of massages available, including Swedish, myofascial release, deep tissue, and more. Consider getting a massage to experience the benefits.

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Applying pressure to trigger points can be a part of therapeutic treatment, and you can also try it at home. Just put pressure on the trigger point for 5 to 10 seconds, when you release the pressure, it explains that more blood flows in the area, increasing blood flow and relaxing the muscle. The theory is that when you put pressure on a tight muscle, it can limit blood flow in that area, and by releasing the pressure, you’re allowing the blood to flow more freely.

Sometimes, it’s suggested to use a tool called Thera Cane, which is a J-shaped tool or a tennis ball, to apply deeper pressure to trigger points using a foam roller, in order to ease tension in muscles and especially work out hard-to-reach knots. Just using your hand may not be sufficient, so self-massage tools can be utilized.

You can acquire recommendations for stretches from a massage therapist, a physical therapist, or the staff at a fitness center if you are uncertain about the most appropriate stretches for your body. As Johnson points out, stretching only partially and holding it for 3 to 5 minutes “elicits a completely different response in the body.” Nonetheless, performing stretches that reach the full range of motion for 10 to 15 seconds, which is the most prevalent form of stretching, is not always effective. “Whether you’re an athlete, an office worker, or a painter, engaging in activities that counterbalance repetitive motions can enhance the functioning of the body and alleviate pain,” Johnson suggests. It is strongly emphasized to incorporate stretching into your regular routine, both after working on a knot and as a preventive measure against future muscle knots. Remember to always stretch.

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Lay on a foam roller positioned vertically along your spine, with your arms stretched out to the sides and your head and tailbone touching the roller. Johnson suggests using a foam roller to alleviate tension that often originates in the back where pain is located, from hunching over a desk all day.

He states, “The greater frequency you engage in that action, the greater the expansion of the chest/front of the torso will occur.” And in the event that you perceive any tension, that is the point at which you should pause until it diminishes. Diligently focus on the sensation of the tension drawing into your core. Begin with your arms positioned alongside your body, then gradually shift your arms outward, pausing when you detect slight opposition.

Needling, provided by UW Health’s Sports Medicine and UW Health Spine Physical Therapy, is a method practiced by certain physical therapists that utilizes petite, slender needles to induce muscle relaxation. Alternatively, it is advisable to have a skilled practitioner perform this technique. Physicians may occasionally administer medicine injections at a trigger point as well (commonly referred to as “wet” needling). Simply insert a needle into the affected area.

“If someone has repetitive stress due to changes in their body, it may take a little longer to get out of the pattern,” he says. “Some people require longer treatment for chronic knots, while others with acute and shorter-lasting knots tend to need shorter treatment. Sometimes, a persistent knot may not be effectively treated with a single session of home treatment or a massage with a tennis ball; additional treatments may be required.”

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