Knots in the muscle are commonly either “hypertonicities” or “contractures” and the better we understand the difference, the better we help the body repair itself.
A muscle at rest has a small amount of fibers contracting and relaxing throughout the muscle in order to maintain “healthy tone”. The nerves control which fibers contract and relax and keep the activity well spread out through the muscle. At the muscle fiber level there are nutrients required for contraction and relaxation of the tissue. Transportation of these nutrients to and from the tissue is very important and the job of the blood and lymph system. All these factors are essential for the health of the muscle.
A hypertonicity occurs when the nerves fire too frequently to an area of the muscle.
When this happens the muscle fibers affected do not get a chance to fully relax and remain in a semi-contracted state. If this is prolonged then fatigue also sets in. A hypertonicity can also occur when the nutrients that allow a muscle to cease contracting are not present and the muscle fibers become locked in a either shortened or lengthened position. Both these scenarios can occur as a result of poor nutrition, dehydration, lack of stretching, poor circulation or repetitive use of a muscle.
A contracture occurs in the fascia and connective tissues of the body.
The body builds a natural band-aid over damaged fibers to protect that area while the tissues heal, this band-aid is often referred to as scar tissue. The body’s natural design is for that scar tissue to stretch out with daily movement, unfortunately we often don’t move enough for this. The tissues underneath the scar may be healthy but the scar sits on top and intertwines with the healthy tissues preventing it from functioning properly. The muscle fibers may not be able to contract or relax fully, the scar may wrap around the blood supply and lymph drainage to the area or can affect the nerve signals as well. Contractures can occur after a surgery, after an accident, with bruising or as a result of postural strains.
A massage therapist is an expert at identifying different types of “knots” and knows the best ways to treat them to get the longest lasting results.