How Does Massage Therapy Help Eliminate Muscle Knots?

By Greg Wood

iStock_000010007015XSmallPinched Nerve In Neck? Feel Like You Have Pinched a Nerve In Your Neck? Tried Chiropractic? Massaging muscle knots is instinctive. When we feel a knot in the muscles of our back, most of us reach back to massage it, without even knowing just why massage helps eliminate them knots.


To explore how knots benefit from massage, let's look at how a massage therapist, who specializes in muscle tension, injury, and knots would approach the problem.

The first duty of a massage therapist is to palpate the muscles of their clients in order to identify and assess areas of tightness, such as is the case with a knot. Sometimes this part is easy - you don't have to be a therapist to find a knot as large as a grape under the skin's surface.

A massage therapist will then warm the area of the muscle knot up with smooth strokes increasing in pressure. These initial massage strokes are designed to bring circulation to the area, and warm up the muscle before more specifically addressing the knot, which would be more painful without a proper warm-up.

The massage therapist will then apply direct, targeted pressure to the muscle knot within the muscle. This pressure should fall at about a therapeutic "7" on a 1-10 pain scale, and the massage therapist should be very communicative with the client to be sure the appropriate pressure is applied to the muscle knot.

Muscle knots are bands of muscle in spasm. The chronic, active contraction of these fibers is painful, and causes a pain-spasm-pain cycle.

When the massage therapist applies pressure directly to the knot and holds this pressure steadily, energy, in the form of oxygen in blood, can no longer feed this contraction, and the muscle knot, starved, must let go.

Commonly the client and therapist will notice that tension and discomfort increase a bit just the moment before the muscle knot does surrender and release.

A client who reported to their massage therapist that the pressure delivered was registering as a "7" on the pain scale, will commonly report that this number has dropped to a 2 or 3, with no change in the pressure applied, once the knot has subsided.

The relief to the massage client, once a muscle knot has been treated, is immense, and spreads much further than the local area of the knot itself. This is because knots bind up, and take up the space of other muscles, often causing discomfort in distant areas. This is called "referral."

Massage therapy is the remedy of choice for sufferers of muscle knots because massage therapy is muscle therapy. It is our instinct to massage muscle pain, and because of their experience and training in the muscles of the body, massage therapists are the natural choice for relief from knots.

Greg Wood is a licensed CT massage therapist. In addition to informative articles such as this one, his practice, A Comfortable Experience, offers an instant, printable $20 off massage coupon at the company website linked above.

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