What's the deal with those "knots"?

Most people have heard of muscle “knots” and, for that matter, experienced the discomfort of said knots themselves. But, I have a lot of clients asking me, “Just what is a muscle knot anyway?”

muscle knots in shoulder blade

Hey, good question! The truth is, there is no such thing as a muscle knot. Muscles don’t get tied up in knots. Not literally, anyway. What we typically are referring to is actually localized muscle tension.

Quite often a whole entire muscle gets tensed up and can feel hard as a rock. But seemingly just as often only a part of the muscle gets tensed up while the rest of it may be relatively okay. There are certain areas of particular muscles that are especially prone to this problem – mostly in the shoulders, neck, and mid to upper back regions, though I find them in various leg muscles as well, and sometimes in the arms.

What does it mean when a muscle is tense? A simplified explanation is that the muscle is stuck in a state of contraction.

Repetitive movements, stress, injury, overuse, etc., have caused the muscle to be unable to go back into a relaxed state after contraction, usually bit by bit, until it basically stays that way all the time. Or, in many cases, just a part of the muscle remains that way.

Keep in mind there are many causes and this is a simplified explanation, but you get the idea. The muscle fibers become, for whatever reason, stuck together and incapable of letting go. These tight, stuck muscles are called ischemic.  Once that happens, the problem will often increase over time as the area of tension grows larger and more toxins and debris get trapped in the ischemic muscles. An excellent way to remedy this problem is, of course, massage therapy. Massage breaks up that tension, stretches and loosens the muscles, communicates with the nervous system to allow the muscle to let go, and gets those fibers to release each other so the muscle can once again return to its natural relaxed state of being.

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