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Massage and hatha yoga in Bristol Blog
what is a muscle knot?
At some time or another most of us have felt a knot lurking around the shoulders or back. Our natural response is to give it a rub, which is pretty much nature’s way of telling us that it’s time for massage. Thankfully, many of us have at one time or another also experienced that blissful sensation during a massage when the therapist glides on to the offending spot. An uncontrollable urge to shout ‘There, that’s it!’ subsides as he or she hones in on the area and begins to get to work. But what exactly is a knot? How does it get there and what can we do to get rid of the little blighters? First, the science bit…
Working muscles need a good supply of blood to bring oxygen and nutrients to the muscles so they function efficiently. If an area of the body is tight then the blood flow through the muscle becomes restricted. This means that the nutrients don’t get to the muscle and waste products (such as Lactic Acid) build up in the muscle tissue rather than being disposed of naturally. Without some treatment this becomes a bit of a vicious circle. The Lactic Acid gets trapped in the muscle, reducing blood flow and therefore oxygen, triggering the muscle to work Anerobically (without oxygen). It’s at this point that more Lactic Acid is produced and muscles become more congested, ultimately stiffening and causing discomfort. This is how the dreaded ‘knot’ is created.
Massage helps improve the blood flow into the muscle and accelerates the elimination of waste products. As massage therapists, we use a number of techniques to release a knot. Muscle fibres are bundled together with a thin layer of connective tissue called ‘facia’ and often this can become conditioned to hold the muscle in a particular way. Facia release can help to loosen this before deep tissue massage begins. For any deep tissue work it is important that the body is relaxed and ready to receive the treatment and that the therapist builds up to this gently by warming and relaxing the muscles.
As with all holistic massage, your therapist will check in with you during the session to make sure you’re comfortable with the amount of pressure used. A knot may have been built up over a period of months or years so there’s every chance that it will be difficult to remove in a single session. Remember, it’s your treatment and so you should feel confident in guiding your therapist towards exactly the right amount of pressure that feels good to you. You can read more about this in What to expect from your treatment.
Whatever technique we use, the intention is to lengthen the muscle fibres and ease the build up of Lactic Acid out of the muscle tissue so that it can be released back into the system for the body to dispose of naturally. That’s one of the reasons why it’s good to drink lots of water after your treatment. More water means more trips to the loo, which means you’ll eliminate the toxins from your body more quickly, helping your body recover and restore its natural balance.