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  • Lisa Chan

What is a muscle knot, why does it happen, and what you can do to relieve it

A muscle knot (aka an adhesion) is a painful area of muscle tension--a very common condition. Most people notice knots in the their shoulders, backs, and necks (especially in the upper trapezius and levator scapula muscles).

But what are these muscle knots and how do they form in the first place? Adhesions are basically thick knots of fibers in muscles that have been chronically contracted (shortened or tightened). They usually appear because of overuse, dehydration, stress, or injury. Exercise and stress can produce micro-tears in the muscle (which is necessary for increasing muscle strength and size). But muscles that have been overworked or have not had enough rest can have too many micro-tears, which can lead to painful adhesions.

So how do we treat them?

-Hydration is always important. At home, I like to put a rubber band on my water glass every time I finish the glass. If I don't have at least 4 rubber bands by midday, then I know I have to drink more water.

-Get massages! A caring and experienced therapist's hands are able to find and relieve those sensitive adhesions and trigger points (adhesions which refer pain to another part of the body)

-Foam roll. The foam roller has been a very good friend to me. Here's a sample foam rolling routine I like.

Note that there are some contraindications to foam rolling. Always ask your doctor first, but in general people with osteoporosis, edema, recent injuries, circulatory problems, as well as pregnancy and people in cancer treatment should avoid foam rolling.

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