It’s time to undo that irritating knot between your neck and shoulder.
Myofascial trigger points — most commonly known as muscle knots — are related to a host of ailments causing recurring pain and discomfort. “Unknotting” can sometimes be more painful than the pain itself but very necessary to prevent the trigger point from enlarging.
Deep-tissue massages, trigger point therapy and applying hot packs in the affected area are the most common forms of treatment. However, regular yoga sessions may provide some relief when used as a complementary treatment. Yoga poses that concentrate on stretching the connective tissue may play a supporting role in releasing the knots.
What Are Muscle Knots?
Experts are conflicted over what exactly muscle knots are — and some even question their existence, as they don't show up on scans. But the general consensus (at least for now) is that a myofascial trigger point, or muscle knot, is an isolated area in the muscle tissue that contracts on the muscle fibers connected to it. This creates a hard, lumpy, tight band in the muscle that feels like a small pea.
Muscle knots are not as serious as a spasm of the entire muscle, or straining or tearing of muscle tissue, but can create chronic stress in the muscle — which may lead to more pain or micro-tearing of the muscle tissue.
Addressing the Source of the Pain
Myofascial trigger points only hurt when pressure is applied to them. But they can refer pain to another point in the body. This pain is steady and can range in intensity from low-grade and dull to severe.
Trigger points are associated with numerous issues of chronic pain, such as headaches, neck and jaw pain and various types of joint pain, as well as other conditions that cause physical discomfort. There may be more than one trigger point causing physical pain elsewhere in the body.
So what do you do when you find your shoulders and neck all tied up in knots?Vigorously massage the sore spot with your hands, Rob Grieve, Ph.D., a senior lecturer in physiotherapy at the University of the West of England, tells New York Times, or use a small, hard ball (like a lacrosse or tennis ball) or a foam roller.
Yoga and Muscle Knots
The added benefits of yoga, such as correcting posture and reducing stress, help disrupt the creation of muscle knots. Also, poses that are held for a long period of time may help reduce any muscle tension and prevent knots from forming.
Yoga has an overall positive effect on muscle tension, muscle relaxation, circulation, stress relief and many issues in the connective tissue.
Yoga and Connective Tissue
Yin yoga is a style of yoga, promotes flexibility in the connective tissues, such as the bones, joints and ligaments. Instead of contracting and releasing muscles, yin yoga poses apply a slow and steady load to connective tissue by stretching for several minutes.
Yin yoga advocates believe that with regular practice the connective tissue becomes longer and stronger, resulting in long-term relief from muscle knots. Yin and similar slower-paced yoga practices, where the position is held for a long period of time, may prove to be an effective complement to myofascial release therapies.