What are Muscle Knots?

Posted on June 30th, 2011

I’m sure all of us at some point or another have experienced what we often refer to as “knots” in our muscles, otherwise scientifically known as myofascial trigger points (MTPs). But what exactly are muscle knots and what causes them?

To answer these questions we need to take a brief look at a little physiology. When muscles work they contract (shorten) and relax (lengthen). Sometimes muscle spasm can occur in response to either an injury, overuse or a sedentary lifestyle which can cause all sorts of postural problems and muscle imbalances. Muscle spasm can cause the affected muscle to work continuously without a break. As muscles are only designed to cycle on and off, the continuous activity causes an abnormal reaction to occur. The current theory suggests that a build up of abnormal protein deposits occurs and this doesn’t allow the muscle to function properly. So now that we know what knots are and what causes them, how exactly do we treat them?

It is often beneficial to use heat packs and perform stretches under a hot shower while you are at home, as the warmth relaxes the associated muscle spasm. Massage and trigger point therapy performed by your physiotherapist is an effective treatment for muscle knots. Doing specific exercises prescribed by your physio can also play an important role in preventing painful trigger points from developing in the future. Additionally your physiotherapist may also chose to perform a technique called dry needling to the muscle knot. What is dry needling you ask? Find out by reading next week’s blog!

What is Inflammation?

Posted on June 21st, 2011

You may hear your physiotherapist or your doctor talking about inflammation, or you may have heard of anti-inflammatory medication. So what is inflammation all about and why does it happen?

Inflammation is an important phase of tissue repair. It happens with muscle strains, ligament sprains and boney injuries. It also occurs within the skin, organs, ears, throat etc. This blog is focused on musculoskeletal inflammation.

Inflammation occurs immediately following an injury and usually continues for several days. Inflammation is the body’s response to trauma. It is a complex process that involves numerous chemicals and red and white blood cells. Inflammation is characterised by the injured area becoming red, hot and tender to touch, swollen, constant pain and you temporarily lose function within this area.

Inflammation stops once the body is satisfied that the trauma has been adequately dealt with and then proceeds onto the next stage of tissue repair called Proliferation.

The best way to manage inflammation is through the RICE regime. Which is Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation.

Winter Aches & Pains

Posted on June 10th, 2011

Now that the cooler months have started settling in you may find that the niggling shoulder pain from the Christmas lights incident in December is starting to ache again. Or that arthritic knee is extra stiff in the morning. Don’t be alarmed as it could be due to the cooler weather.

So why does this happen? When you are cold, the body preserves your natural body warmth by keeping it close to the organs thereby taking it away from the muscles and joints (particularly in your arms and legs). This decreases the amount of warm blood flowing through the muscles and joints causing them to decrease in elasticity causing stiffness. This same principle occurs with old injuries. Scar tissue is already less elastic in nature and therefore with decreased blood flow can aggravate an old injury.

So what can you do? Apply heat to the affected area – wheat bag, heat pack, adhesive heat pads, warm showers, exercising, warm clothing, anything that will increase your body warmth. The only exception to this treatment approach is if your injury is inflammed. What is inflammation? Read more in our blog next week. Until then, have a wonderful week 🙂

Next week: What is inflammation?