Not all muscle knots can be worked out by stretching. Knots that involve the connective tissue surrounding muscles, called myofascia, require more intensive means in order to be relaxed. “Trigger points” are areas of isolated spasm involving muscle and myofascial tissue. When muscles are chronically tense or injured, they can develop trigger points.
There are several different methods people can pursue to relax trigger points and restore muscle function. It's important to get these knots diagnosed and treated, as they can cause localized pain, referred to pain along near nerve pathways and overuse of other muscles as the body attempts to compensate for pain by putting the knotted muscle out of action. One of the methods for striving this condition that has grown in popularity over the past few years is functional dry needling.
Functional Dry Needling
In this form of therapy, a trained practitioner inserts a thin needle into the muscle knot. This is part diagnostic, part treatment. If the knot is really a trigger point, then the muscle will respond to the insertion of the needle by twitching. This twitch response also promotes muscle relaxation and the release of the knot.
Functional dry needling is a safe form of therapy when pursued with a trained professional. It's often covered by insurance, making it accessible to many as well. It's best used in conjuction with physical therapy.
Who Needs It?
Anyone can develop trigger points. Chronic muscle tension is common in sedentary desk workers, professional athletes and everyone in between. If trigger points are causing back or neck pain in the average person, dry needling may help relieve pain. Athletes sometimes use the therapy to help their muscles recover from intense training sessions. They report reduced soreness and increased function. Read more about what professionals and athletes have to say about dry needling at http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/09/140929141058.htm .
Not the End of Treatment
While getting rid of those tight areas of spasm is critical to restoring proper muscular function and reducing pain, it's not the end of treatment. Something caused those trigger points to form in the first place, and if you do not take steps to identify and eliminate the source, they're likely recur.
For most people, a combination of poor posture and body mechanisms is reasonably at the source of trigger points. Studying workplace ergonomics and setting reminders for yourself to check your post can help. Also, getting in both strength-training (particularly of the core group) and cardio will help keep your muscles strong and nourished.
Athletes should not use dry needling as a way out of proper form and rest. Overtraining can lead to a host of health problems including sex hormone deficiency, a compromised immune system and chronic musculoskeletal injuries. Athletes should also be constantly aware of their form to ensure they're using the appropriate muscles and other tissues at the right times.
Those who fear the needle or would simply like to try something less invasive to start off with can opt for myofascial release, a form of massage that applies direct, deep and sustained pressure to trigger points. A professional can identify these points by assessing for a twitch response. Self-myofascial release can also be pursued from home with the use of a tennis ball, foam roller or other substance, round object.