Being a Registered Massage Therapist, I often get asked, “Why do muscles get tight?”, “What’s a muscle knot?”, and “Why am I in pain?” And the truth is they are good questions.
There are a number of reasons why muscles get tight. First however, we need to understand what a muscle is. Without getting too technical, muscles are fibrous elastic-like tissues, elastic rubber bands come to mind.
Reason #1. Water and Dehydration.
Have you ever had a fruit sit around for an extended period of time? You’ll notice it start to shrink. Think of raisins. Muscles shrink when they don’t have enough water, the fibers will get sticky and stick to each other.
I often give an analogy of spaghetti here. Imagine you have 5 freshly cooked strands of spaghetti hanging on a fork. They are all happy right? In short time those noodles get sticky. So, then you shake the fork. What happens? The noodles stick to each other forming a clump. This is similar to a muscle knot or an adhesion as it’s technically known. So, what do you do with the spaghetti? You run it under some water and the noodles loosen up and are happy again.
But what about the muscle knot?
That’s where the physical manipulation of massage comes in. The application of pressure on the knot attempts to push fluid into the muscle fibers loosening the fibers and increasing circulation within the tissues. The only question is how long it will take for the fibers to release? That depends on many other factors including size and location of the knot, approximate length of time it’s been there, contributing factors like posture issues or injuries.
Ok, so what about the pain?
The pain people experience due to muscle issues is usually due to nerve entrapment. In other words, a nerve is possibly caught in the knot. This is often the case with pain from the lower back down the back of the leg.
I will then often hear, “But Sean, I drink a lot of water!”, “I don’t like water.” Or something in between.
From my experience, once the knot is in place, increasing your water intake is good for overall health but will have minimal affect on the knot until it is worked out, stretched out or strengthened. For people that don’t like water, I suggest they flavour their water, 1/3 100% juice, 2/3 water.
In my next post we will discuss other factors associated with “Why muscles get tight”.
To your good health,