Untying the knots!
When you’ve been told by a massage therapist that ‘your back is full of knots’ you tend to picture your muscles quite literally tying themselves up into little balls. In fact the ‘knot’ is a bit of a cop out – an easy way for massage therapists to explain the lumpy feel of the muscles in your back.
Let’s get this straight – your muscles are NOT tying themselves into half hitches and bowlines while your back is turned!
Think of the muscles in your back as being an incredibly complex series of layers – lots of thin, flat muscles lying on top of one another. The edges overlap and they all run in different directions. That ‘knot’ you feel is most likely to be the edge of one of those muscles. Or, it could be a muscle that is a bit unhappy and in a state of contraction or ‘hypertonicity’ if you want to get fancy. Chances are, if a muscle is tight or in spasm (a state of constant contraction) it will feel hard and also sore when poked.
Some muscles just feel different to others. Some are squidgy and soft – think of biceps – and some are always ropy and tendinous – like the scalene muscles in the sides of your neck. Just because a muscle feels ‘hard’ to the touch doesn’t necessarily mean there’s something wrong with it.
The only true phenomenon coming close to a ‘knot’ is the Myofascial Trigger Point. These are very small local areas of really contracted muscle. These have the ability to ‘send’ pain to different areas, particularly when pressed. A good massage therapist is trained to work on these points.
So before you start getting stressed about all the knots in your shoulders, don’t panic – It is possible that you a normal anatomical specimen with the same lumps and bumps as most of the population!