Primary Causes of Myofascial Trigger Points
Muscle knots are hard, sensitive areas of muscle that tighten and contract even when your muscle is at rest. These are hyperirritable spots in the muscle or fascial tissue, and they are also called myofascial trigger points. If your muscle fibers are tense, it can cause pain in other areas of the body. They typically develop in the neck and shoulders, lower back, IT band area, calves, and shins. Some of the most common causes of muscle knots include:
- Repetitive motion
- Poor eating habits
- Poor posture
- Tension from mental and emotional stress
- Direct injury
- Prolonged sitting
Although trigger points are not dangerous, they can be quite painful. They cause aching sensations and pain in the muscles and joints. You will know you have a muscle knot because when you touch it, it might feel swollen or tense. It could also feel tight and contracted even when you are trying to relax.
If a muscle knot is so painful that the pain is distracting, it might be tearing at microfibers of muscle tissue, which can cause scarring. It can even cause the tissue to lose elasticity. This is a problem because decreased tissue elasticity can increase muscle tightness because of an increase in restriction, so leaving a muscle knot untreated can create a vicious cycle of pain.
How to Get Rid of Muscle Knots
If you are experiencing pain from muscle knots, you will want to make an appointment with a physical therapy team like ProFysio Physical Therapy. Your physical therapist can help determine the underlying cause of your pain and work to address it. Some of the best treatments for muscle knots your therapist can offer include:
- Therapeutic massage
Massage therapy can help increase circulation and improve blood flow. In the process, it can also improve muscle function, help loosen up the muscles, and relieve pain and stiffness. Therapeutic massages will work to realign deeper layers of muscle through a combination of firm pressure and slow strokes. During the massage, your therapist will work on the usual muscles as well as the connective tissue.
- Low-level laser therapy
Low-level laser therapy, also called cold laser therapy, is a form of alternative medicine that uses laser light at low levels of near-infrared light. Your therapist would apply the light to the surface skin of the body in order to decrease pain and inflammation, promote healing of wounds, tissues, and nerves, or to prevent tissue damage.
- Therapeutic stretching techniques
Stretching relieves tension and increases flexibility. When your muscles are loose and pliable, this will prevent muscle knots from forming. It will also prevent injury. Some patients will need to be stretching on a therapeutic level, but others will benefit from exercises as gentle as getting up and stretching. Muscle knots can truly form quite easily, and doing some simple stretches can relieve a knotted muscle that has formed from being in an uncomfortable position for an extended period of time. It is also wise to stretch frequently as a preventative measure because stretching can go a long way to prevent knots.
Electrostimulation is a technique that feels like a slight tingling sensation that will increase until it feels strong but comfortable. Electrostimulation helps with muscle knots because it sends signals to targeted muscles that make them contract. These repeated muscle contractions result in improved blood flow, which helps repair injured muscles.
- Dry needling
When a physical therapist works to treat muscle knots with dry needling, they will insert the needle in the trigger point and then move the needle in an up-and-down motion. This process helps to release muscle tension because it causes tight muscles to cramp and then relax. Many patients experience improved mobility and decreased pain within 24 hours of this treatment, but it usually takes a few treatment sessions to create an optimal outcome.
- Mechanical vibration
Mechanical vibration therapy is often used to improve osteoclast metabolism and to prevent osteoporosis in patients with reduced mobility, but it can also be used to help treat muscle knots. It does this by increasing the range of motion and flow, both of which can help to reduce micro-injury and encourage the removal of pain-inducing cytokines, which will reduce pain overall.
- Pulsed ultrasound
A pulsed ultrasound can be used for a variety of therapeutic purposes. The low-intensity and pulsed mechanical waves encourage regenerative and anti-inflammatory effects on biological tissues. The heat that is generated by ultrasound can relax tense or strained muscles, which will minimize muscle spasms and shortened muscles associated with muscle knots. This form of therapy can also increase range of motion and help heal conditions like osteoarthritis and phantom limb pain.
- “Spray-and-stretch” cooling spray
Spray-and-stretch is a topical anesthetic skin refrigerant that works to manage myofascial pain and trigger point release when used along with the spray and stretch technique. The technique is simply another method of treating cervical myofascial pain and is performed with a vapocoolant spray that is applied to the affected muscle after being placed in a passive stretch. This technique can alleviate acute pain and restricted range of motion due to muscle trigger points. The application of a vapocoolant is a counterirritant to myofascial pain due to muscle spasms and trigger points.
As you can see, there are many ways to treat muscle knots, but the best plan of action is to simply prevent them from forming in the first place. Make sure you are being mindful of your body’s needs and taking time to hydrate, relax, and stretch if you want to prevent muscle knots.
For more tips like this and to learn how ProFysio Physical Therapy can provide freedom from muscle pain, give us a call at (732) 812-5200 or contact us online.