The knots that many people complain about are nothing more than muscle contractures. They are very common and are not usually serious. The reason it is called a knot is that muscle contractures are often palpable through the skin as painful lumps.
What is a muscle contracture?
A muscle contracture is nothing more than an exaggerated and involuntary contraction of the fibers that make up the muscle, continuously for multiple reasons, these can occur in any muscle and usually the person reports a tension in the area.
Sometimes the muscle contracture can be felt through the skin as if it were a lump or hardened area that produces local pain and alters the normal functioning of the muscle. Sometimes the pain can radiate to another area, causing headaches, dizziness, tingling or numbness in extremities.
Muscle contractions – How they happen and what are their causes
Learn in this video the physiological processes that occur in a contracture and the causes that can trigger or cause muscle contractures or stiffness:
Treatment of cervical or trapezius contracture
Cervical contracture or tension is one of the most frequent problems that people suffer in the neck and also often has an easy treatment and solution:
Why do muscle contractures appear?
Muscle contracture can appear for several reasons, such as:
- By requiring a greater effort than it is capable of withstanding, either at a specific moment or due to repetitive efforts, we generate fatigue in the muscle.
- When the muscle is weakened and does not have the necessary strength to carry out the activity that we are going to carry out.
- As a result of a sedentary lifestyle , the muscles are not in the best condition, so they are more susceptible to muscle contractures when faced with a small effort.
- Also due to repetitive postures , forced and maintained for a long time ; for example, holding the phone with your ear and shoulder, studying with your head bowed very low, looking at your phone all day can trigger a muscle contracture.
- By sudden stretching of a muscle group: the muscle contracts as a defense to avoid a breakage of its fibers.
- The cold can cause a defensive contraction that, maintained over time, can produce a contracture.
- Poor nutrition and hydration , which in the long run can produce an accumulation of toxins and a malfunction of certain organs such as the liver and kidney.
- When there is a serious injury, the surrounding musculature tends to contract for protection . This means that, although the main injury is healed, the surrounding muscles remain contracted.
- Certain emotions such as stress or anxiety release a series of chemical elements that lead the muscle to a state of sustained contraction.
How are muscle contractures formed?
When we make a physical effort, a series of metabolic waste accumulates inside the muscle fiber, which means that the blood does not reach it properly. As there is not enough irrigation, the toxic waste from the muscle fibers is not able to be eliminated and therefore the accumulation of toxins is increasing. This accumulation irritates the nerve endings, causing localized and radiating pain and, as a consequence, it will increase muscle tone. This constantly increased tone is what we call a contracture. The increased muscle tone will make our muscle harder, more tense and therefore the movement capacity of this muscle will be less.
How do I avoid muscle contractures?
Once the causes of muscle contractures are understood, it will be easier to avoid them. To avoid the appearance of muscle contractures, prevention is best:
- Perform a proper warm-up or warm- up to prepare the muscle before an effort, physical
- activity, training or sports practice.
- Gradually increase the intensity and loads in various exercises.
- Avoid repeated movements and states of muscle fatigue.
- Stretching before, during and after work or sports activities to improve muscle flexibility and facilitate muscle recovery after activity.
- Avoid incorrect postures maintained over time. He is used to changing postures and doing light stretches throughout the workday.
I already have muscle contracture, what do I do?
When we already have muscle contracture we have no choice but to treat it.
It is not convenient to treat a muscle contracture on our own with inappropriate massages or drugs recommended by someone you know, it is best to go to the doctor or physiotherapist so that they can really evaluate if the pain is really of a muscular type caused by a muscle contracture or not.
The first thing you should do is rest the area where you have the muscle contracture, avoiding any form of intense physical activity for two to three days. If the contracture is not severe, you can start applying heat and massaging the area to keep blood flowing to the area. Also, remember to eat healthy and take your vitamins to help your body heal faster.
See a professional, especially if:
- The contracture prevents movement and activities of daily living.
- In addition to the pain, you feel prickling or a sensation of electric shock , tingling or numbness in an extremity (there may be nerve involvement).
- You cannot sleep or rest due to the contracture.
- The pain does not subside in more than a week.
Self-massages and self-stretching can be done at home without inconvenience since the risk of injury or damage that you can do is low or zero.
What will the doctor or physiotherapist do when faced with a muscle contracture?
The doctor may prescribe muscle relaxants and anti-inflammatories with the aim of relaxing the muscles by reducing contraction, but keep in mind that these drugs will not treat the contracture. They are usually prescribed in cases where the pain is very strong.
Muscle contractures are the main cause of physiotherapy consultation. The physiotherapist has a series of tools to solve them. The duration of treatment varies depending on the severity of the contracture.
- Heat: be it an electric blanket, a bag of seeds or the jet of a hot shower, we achieve an analgesic and relaxing effect.
- Massages: with the massage we cause more blood to reach the place of the muscular contraction, favoring the recovery of the tissue and eliminating metabolites. As a consequence, a relaxation of the muscle is achieved and therefore a reduction in pain. It is advisable to go to a center where a person qualified in physiotherapy gives you a massage, since if it were performed by a person without the necessary knowledge, it could worsen the contracture.
- Stretching: flexibility is important as a preventive method for muscle contractures and as a treatment technique, since good muscle elasticity as well as the stretching itself and breathing techniques during them favor the disappearance of the contracture after a few physiotherapy sessions.
- Each professional will use their knowledge to eliminate muscle contracture depending on the person and the state of the injury: stretching and self-stretching , neuromuscular bandage , osteopathy.
- Treatment of myofascial trigger points that appear or are present in muscles that suffer contractures with techniques such as acupressure or dry needling.
- Techniques for myofascial release or roller self -myofascial release.
Muscle contractures are very common in sedentary people, who work many hours sitting down, who do physical exertion, housewives and even athletes. They can occur at any time, but it is important to point out that as a preventive measure against muscle contractures, you can constantly perform self-stretching for good flexibility of the muscles, as well as practice self-massage, avoid inappropriate postures, weight loads and stressful situations. In addition, whenever necessary, go to the physiotherapist who is the most qualified professional to end your contracture.