If you’re a regular to massage, the concept of a muscle knot is probably something you’re well aware of, but what are they exactly? And what’s the relationship between a muscle knot and a trigger point?
What’s a trigger point?
Trigger points are simply tender spots on your body that ‘trigger’ or cause discomfort. These tender spots are common and many of us have them, but for some people they can become really troublesome. They are common in hot-spots like shoulders and neck, but they can crop up just about anywhere and in some people, they can cause a lot of pain.
A trigger point is like a ‘knot’ in your muscle, or the fascia (the thin wrapping around each muscle) which is why they are often referred to as a muscle knot. To a massage therapist it feels like a hard contraction on the on the muscle fibers connected to it, like a tight band around the muscle. Trigger points in muscles are ‘myofascial trigger points’ – and there are other types of trigger point that can occur around the body, on your skin, ligaments and tendons, and on scar tissue.
How can you tell if you have a muscle knot or trigger point?
You’ll be able to tell where your own trigger points are; if you touch them with any kind of pressure you’ll notice they start to hurt, or hurt more. They are often situated close to problem areas for you as well, so if you have back issues, your trigger points are likely to be around your back, neck and shoulders, although this isn’t always the case. The range of sensations you might feel from a trigger point can be quite wide, too; anything from intense pain to a dull, throbbing ache. Some people feel ‘pins and needles’ or numbness.
So, what causes trigger points to flare up?
One theory is that they are down to some sort of muscular overload – if you’ve been working out too hard or overdoing it, or just not been taking care of your posture.
How are Trigger Points treated?
If you notice a sore spot and want to see a massage therapist for advice, we’d advise having a word with your medical adviser first just to make sure that any swelling or soreness is just down to muscular stress and nothing more serious.
Once you’ve been checked over, we can start to look at the problem and help you to heal it with massage.
A good massage therapist will be able to work on your trigger points and muscle knots, gently but firmly releasing them. They can also help you with in-between treatment massage techniques to try at home that will ease any discomfort and help to prevent the muscle knots building up again.
Trigger points and tender spots can cause a huge amount of pain and discomfort, often restricting your movement and your ability to do the activities you want to. You don’t have to put up with this pain though, with some action on your part you can be pain free!
For people who are depressed, massage for depression is not a cure but may help lessen some of the symptoms and support recovery.
Depression is a brain disorder, and research has shown that the brains of depressed people look and act differently from the brains of people who aren’t depressed. The causes of depression are not well understood, but most likely involve a combination of genetic, biochemical, environmental, and psychological factors.
Depression comes in many types. For example, major depression is disabling and prevents a person from functioning normally in daily life, while dysthymia is a milder, usually long-term, depression where a person can still function but probably isn’t living a normal and full life. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which usually affects people during the winter months, is also a type of depression.
Often the most obvious symptom of depression is an overwhelming feeling of sadness, but depression has many other possible symptoms that vary depending on the type of depression and the individual. Common symptoms include:
The two most common depression treatments are medication and psychotherapy. Another treatment, primarily used for SAD, is light therapy, which involves exposure to a strong artificial light that mimics sunlight.
Massage for Depression
Touch is important to human beings – babies die without touch. Lack of touch may even contribute to depression. And, if a person is depressed, massage may help.
First, dealing with depression presents a lot of stress, and relaxation is one of the best benefits of massage. Depression can also lead to muscle tension and pain that massage can help relieve.
Beyond helping a person relax, massage may reduce the body’s production of stress hormones, such as cortisol and norepinephrine, and may also increase the body’s production of pain-killing endorphins and mood-altering serotonin. Studies conducted by the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami have shown:
These effects may occur because the skin and muscles contain many millions of nerve receptors that are linked to the nervous system. Touch and massage can stimulate the nerve receptors, causing the release of chemicals in the brain.
The benefits of massage for depression are further supported in a review, published in the March 2010 Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. The authors reviewed 17 studies of massage for depression and concluded the studies supported the ability of massage therapy to significantly lessen symptoms of depression.
Plus, a great benefit of massage therapy is that it rarely has side effects, when received from a trained, qualified massage therapist. People who want to try massage for depression should always let their massage therapist know about their condition and other treatments and tell other healthcare providers that they are receiving massage.
Roe, Catherine, and Carol A. Wiley. “Using Massage for Depression Relief.” Using Massage for Depression ReliefEzineArticles.com. http://ezinearticles.com/?Using-Massage-for-Depression-Relief&id=603177
Common Health Problems: What can Massage do for YOU?
Massages are often sold as a purely indulgent treat that you get when you visit a spa or go on vacation, but there’s so much more to massage than just a feel good treat. Did you know that the symptoms of many health problems can be reduced and even eliminated with regular massage?
Here are a few conditions that massage can work really well on; a few you probably know and some that may surprise you!
It’s no surprise that a regular dose of massage therapy is good for your stress levels, it works by helping to lower your blood pressure, improve your quality of sleep, and by reducing your stress levels, it’s also thought to help reduce the risk of heart disease. In 2008 the journal Psycho-oncology published a study which came to the conclusion “…a significant reduction in cortisol (the main stress hormone) could be safely achieved through massage, with associated improvement in psychological well-being.”
Lower Back Pain
This is such a common problem, often caused by bad posture at work, so no wonder many employers are drafting in massage therapists to help. Poor posture and sitting for too long can cause a lot of lower back problems, as can simply getting older. Get your massage therapist on the case and you can hopefully wave goodbye to a sore back.
Fitness and sport are great for your health but they can sometimes lead to injuries and overworked muscles. A regular massage can help to heal any wear and tear on your muscles and tendons, and can also help you manage the pain from a chronic or acute sports injury. Having well looked-after muscles may also help prevent future injuries – one more reason to book those regular sessions.
Massage can be a blessed relief for people dealing with the pain and stiffness associated with arthritis and other joint problems. Research published in 2013 in the Complementary Therapy in Clinical Practice journal said that people with rheumatoid arthritis reported some relief from pain and stiffness after four once-a-week moderate-pressure massages, topped up with self-massage at home in between treatments. Massage can also help with your range of motion and flexibility, which can relieve pain in your shoulders, knees, and hips.
There are a whole range of health problems that can be caused by bad circulation, so it figures that boosting your circulation will be a bonus for your whole body. Regular massage helps to get the blood moving, getting essential nutrients to where they are needed in your tissues and vital organs much faster. The squeezing and pulling actions involved in a good massage also help to flush lactic acid out of your muscles and improve the circulation of lymph – the fluid that carries metabolic waste away from your muscles and internal organs.
Nobody really knows what causes migraines, and there isn’t a cure, but if you’re a migraine sufferer you’ll be pleased to hear that studies have shown that massage can help reduce the frequency of attacks, and lessen the severity of the symptoms. Some migraines, especially those triggered by stress, are especially receptive to massage treatment.
Of course, we wouldn’t tell you that massage cures cancer; it can’t. But in some cases your massage therapist can notice abnormalities in your skin that you can’t see or just haven’t picked up on, and alert you to them. Regular massage can also be good for your skin as it gets the circulation going and the nourishing oils used in a treatment help to keep skin feeling soft.
A massage helps to stimulate lymph flow around your body, which boosts your immune system and can help to reduce the severity of allergic reactions. Sometimes a therapist might be able to tell just from your lymph nodes if you are an allergy sufferer as they can feel tender or swollen.
Did any of those surprise you? Of course, you don’t need to make an excuse for wanting a massage, but if you are dealing with any of these health issues, it’s good to know that your regular massage habit is helping.
How Often Should You Get a Massage?
Every day! Well, maybe that’s not practical, even though it would be nice. This is one of the most common questions clients ask about massage therapy, and it really all depends on WHY you get massages. Do you get massages for health benefits? Or, to help you relax and handle the stress of everyday life? Most likely it’s a combination of the two, so let’s look at some of the most common reasons to get regular massages:
Relaxation & Stress Relief
One of the very best reasons to get a massage is for relaxation. Relaxation massage helps to support your body, including blood circulation and flexibility of joints. Regular massage can help prevent pain, muscle tension, and stress points from building up and causing problems. Why wait until you have a problem to get a massage? Massage is perfect for preventing issues with your tissues. Relaxation massage is usually recommended at least once per month, or as often as you want!
There may be times in your life where you experience higher levels of stress and more muscle tension than normal. It is especially important to practice good self-care during these times. When we “don’t have time” for a massage, is usually when we need one the most. Make yourself a priority even during stressful times, your health is worth it.
If you are in a high-stress job or you work in an environment where you stay in a certain position for a long period of time (at a computer for example), you may begin to develop tight or “knotted” muscles. This will frequently occur in your shoulders, arms, and back. All of this increased muscle tension will make movement harder and can cause a great deal of pain. Regular massage can help to keep you loosened up and will help to prevent pain and stiffness.
Living with high levels of stress for a prolonged amount of time increases the risk of contracting heart disease and other diseases. It has been estimated that 75 – 90 percent of all visits to primary care physicians are for stress related problems. The good news is, massage can help! Just knowing your massage is coming up in a few days can help to relieve stress, and a massage every 2-4 weeks will help with stress related tension.
Are you a weekend warrior, or do you just like to stay in shape? Either way, massage can help with sports performance and recovery. Many athletes and physically active people receive sports massage because it enhances their performance, prevents injury, and speeds up their muscles’ recovery. Competitive sports can put a lot of stress on a person’s muscles! Research conducted at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging at McMaster University in Ontario shows that massage reduces inflammation and stimulates the growth of new mitochondria, the energy-producing units in the cells, after strenuous exercise. This means that massage can help relieve pain, build muscles and help with muscle recovery too! For these benefits it is recommended that you get a massage up to three times a week or at least three times a month.
Chronic Health Conditions
People with ongoing health issues often find massage very helpful to alleviate symptoms. Chronic health problems that greatly benefit from massage therapy include back pain, joint pain, and localized inflammation. If you get therapy for specific issues, the frequency of getting massage therapy varies with the type of condition you have and how severe it is. Relief from pain can usually be achieved with 2-4 massage sessions per month. Your massage therapist will work with you to help you get on the best schedule for your body.