What is a muscle knot or trigger point, why does it happen and what you can do to relieve it?
A great mentor once told me that maybe I shouldn't blame the muscles so much and find the root cause. I thought about it and discovered the nerves and brain are the true controllers of many pain patterns or increased muscle trigger points or chronic tension. By treating the nerves the muscles will start to calm.
Let's first talk about what trigger points are. Trigger points are bands of muscle fibers that are not happy. I call it a traffic jam of neuronal impulses. There are two main types that I address in my Physical Therapy clinic which are active and latent trigger points.
The difference between the two types of trigger points are the active ones are uptight, but not too long standing or as overused compared to latent ones during your activity. Active trigger points are tender with or without physical touch or pressure place upon them. The latent trigger points are a traffic jam of muscle fibers that only hurt when pressed on and are typically more sensitive in my experience.
Latent trigger points clinically tells me the strain has been there for some time now as a result of chronic stress, injury, poor movement patterns, or less than ideal postures. Let's try to understand the physiology of these trigger points and how best to rid your body of those annoying tender bits. I earlier mentioned it was like a traffic jam correct. Well if the electrical impulses that are sent from the brain to the muscle runs into this trigger point bundle of muscle fibers it can't pass through and return back to the brain for feedback. It is the same with coordination feedback systems. The brain says move to touch an object and needs feedback about how accurate it was and if it needs fine tuning. If these impulses can't pass the traffic jam they start building metabolic acidity, waste products, block blood flow, increase the normal tone, and use cross talk to other synergistic muscles(muscles that work on teams) to follow them into a overactive pattern.
They are usually found in the global muscles that typically used as the primary movers of the body and in my clinic I find poor posture is a huge issue if these are what you are fighting against and then overuse patterns of movement such as most sports we play. So now you should ask, how do I get rid of these little buggers?
I advise my patients everyday when I evaluate and treat I am looking for the root cause and not the symptoms. Chasing the symptoms will continually bring frustration to our attempts. Let's use the analogy of the weeds in the backyard. If you only pull the weeds without the roots, they will be back in two weeks possibly even more thick. So make sure you pull the roots and give some routine maintenance to ensure the long term results.
Fix the #1 root cause for most people:
Address your posture at your desk, while sitting at dinner, during workouts, or all day to make it a habit to correct the chronic strain. Think there is a cable pulling you upward by the back of your head, general tuck of the chin, shoulder rolled back and down all the way and ease off a few tics so no strain is felt, and find that neutral pelvis we mentioned in the last blog. It's not easy and take 3 months or 3-6000 mindful corrections to build a new habit.