What are Muscle Knots?

When attending the clinic for treatment, your chiropractor may have dug their thumbs into painful points within your muscles. This is not because we are sadists; the painful points are called trigger points or knots, and it’s important to release these knots as part of your treatment.

So what are trigger points?
A trigger point is a small muscle contraction within a taut band of muscle that can be felt as a small nodule/knot up to the size of a pea. Blood flow to the knot is restricted due to the tight muscle fibres, therefore resulting in the build-up of waist products (lactic acid) which in turn causes nerve irritation and pain. They can exist in almost every muscle within the body. Trigger points are described as active or latent. Active trigger points cause pain locally or refer pain to another location without any pressure on them. Latent trigger points do not yet cause localised or referred pain but may do so when pressure is applied.

What causes trigger points?
Trigger points commonly form when a muscle is under excessive strain or chronic overload used to maintain posture because of poor sitting, working or sleeping habits, or by repetitive work tasks.

Why should we get rid of trigger points?
As well as causing pain, trigger points affect the way muscles function; causing tightness, weakness and restricting the muscles range of motion. The tight muscle can pull on tendons and ligaments associated with the muscle and cause pain deep within a joint where there are no muscles.

How to get rid of trigger points.
Given a trigger point is a small muscle contraction; one way to release the trigger point is to stretch the affected muscle. Pressure on the trigger point helps to remove waist products generated by the contracted muscle fibre allowing the knot to release. Dry needling (the insertion of an acupuncture needle into the trigger point) can also help release the knot. Dry needling is thought to work by disrupting a reflex arc of contracted tissue as well as stimulating biochemical changes to allow improved blood flow and healing to the area.

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