Question: I get painful muscle knots in my legs and sometimes shoulders. These are painful and annoying. What is the best way to get rid of them and is there a way to prevent them?
Answer: Those muscle knots are called myofacial trigger points. The general pattern they follow is up through the hamstring or in the upper back near the neck and through the trapezius. Though the exact cause has not been determined the general consensus is that they are caused by overload use of the muscles. They occur in runners often in hamstrings and more recently they seem to regularly occur in the upper back areas of those spending large amount of time sitting bent over a computer screen. Holding an unnatural position for an extended time leaves the muscle with the tendency to remain in that position. When the muscle returns to the natural position it has become uncomfortable and knots have formed which keep it in the unnatural position.
Staying well hydrated is one preventative measure but that doesn’t help much in the case of explosive runners. To get rid of those knots requires using rollers of various types like the hard foam rollers or even a lacrosse ball or a massage therapist. The rollers knead the knots and pressure on them can get them to release. It’s not a comfortable process. In fact, it can be excruciating.
Massage therapists are able to work through them more gently by releasing the tension on the muscle then addressing the knots. Once the rollers or the massage therapist works through the knots, hydration is key to helping remove toxins released in the process.
Stretching is essential to prolonging the time before they return, and rest from the activity or position responsible for causing them is the best way to get rid of them. Stopping training isn’t always an option until the season is complete for athletes. After practice, uncomfortable stretching is essential and a combination of using ice baths and hot Epsom salt baths can keep muscles more relaxed and pliable.
If you’re stuck behind a computer for prolonged periods, schedule time out from sitting behind the desk or if you can, use variable positions to work such as standing or raising your chair. Stretch throughout the day and make a concerted effort to stretch once you’re relaxed at home.
The knots are painful but they can be controlled with regular stretching or add yoga or Pilates to your training/health regimen.
God bless and keep training,