muscle knot

What is a Muscle Knot?

During the centuries when tall ships adorned with sails dominated the seas, any skilled sailor knew how to tie dozens of knots with intriguing names such as the anchor bend, the bowline and the half-hitch.

The knots we get in our muscles aren’t nearly so exotic or desirable; they’re painful. In addition, they’re not actually knots. So, what are they?

The Knot That’s Not

We have approximately 3-400 pairs of muscles in our bodies; as one muscle pulls in a certain direction, the other pulls in the opposite direction. Given all the work done by these muscle pairs, it shouldn’t be surprising to learn that when we work muscles hard, we may create an imbalance within the pairings. There isn’t enough distance between the muscle fibres, so the muscles can no longer glide freely and get stuck together.

This tight, painful spot that we call a muscle knot can be referred to as an adhesion – fibres sticking to each other – or a myofascial trigger point (MTP). Trigger points may only hurt when you put pressure on them or they can regularly send pain signals along your neural pathway.

Tying Those Knots or How do Knots Form?

how do knots form

There are three common causes for muscle knots:

  • Accidents: Acute trauma to your body, such as a fall or a sports injury can strain your muscles and joints.
  • Postural stress: Regularly carrying heavy objects (e.g., purses) on one shoulder, sitting too long with poor posture, sitting without support – bleachers, anyone? – or lifting heavy objects improperly.
  • Overstimulation: Strenuous sporting pursuits or exercise; lifting weights.

Preventing Muscle Knots

Now that you understand a bit about the causes and the mechanics of muscle knots, you’d undoubtedly prefer to avoid them! There are steps you can take to prevent a muscle knot from developing:

  • Hydration and Diet: Drink plenty of water and maintain a healthy diet. Water helps to lubricate your muscles, while caffeinated drinks, alcohol and fast foods loaded with salt help dehydrate you. Ensure that you get enough of foods that contain B vitamins, potassium and calcium, such as bananas and yogurt. If you are mindful of what you put into your body and eat and drink healthily, you are less likely to get injured.
  • Lifestyle: Lack of sleep and ongoing stress makes you more vulnerable to injury. Get proper rest and don’t abuse your body. Even a short period of daily meditation or yoga can be useful for relaxation.
  • Massage: It’s not just for spa days – think of professional athletes. Massage therapy is a useful tool for keeping muscles oxygenated, flexible and healthy.
  • Regular Breaks: Many of us today spend our lives seated at a desk and tied to our computers. Our bodies are designed to move, and it’s unhealthy for them to remain in one position for too long. At work or at home, get up each hour and walk around a bit – fill up your water bottle, for example. While sitting at your desk, stretch your neck, uncross your legs and straighten your shoulders. Movement is good.
  • Exercise Regularly: As noted above, our bodies are designed for motion. Build regular exercise into your weekly schedule so that you remain flexible and strong. A physiotherapist can assist you in determining which exercises are best for your lifestyle and physical strengths and abilities.
  • Stretch: When you finish exercising and your muscles are warm, do a series of stretches to help them remain flexible.

How to Get Rid of a Muscle Knot

how to get rid of a muscle knot

As much as we’d all love to avoid muscle knots altogether, they may occur. When you feel a knot and experience pain, your body is sending a signal that it needs help. Consider these possibilities to get rid of a muscle knot:

  • Rest: It’s time to take a break from whatever is causing the pain, whether it’s sitting at your computer or lifting weights at the gym. Give your body some time to heal.
  • Massage: While it’s great for prevention, massage therapy is also very useful as a treatment for knots. A registered massage therapist can break up your adhesions, relieve muscle pain and suggest appropriate self-care that may include foam rollers or other tools.
  • Physiotherapy: If you have been bothered by pain for a while, a physiotherapist will help identify the underlying causes and will provide relief with the most appropriate techniques.
  • Stretch: Gentle range-of-motion activities are usually helpful, but it is best to discuss your proposed routine with a physiotherapist, massage therapist or athletic trainer before embarking on it. Be sure that your movements are pain free.

Muscle knots are NOT insurmountable. With the proper attention, you should be able to resume your usual activities and prevent them from recurring regularly.

Bothered by muscle knots?


shin splint

What are Shin Splints?

What do runners, ballet dancers and military recruits have in common? One trait they all share is a susceptibility to shin splints.

What are shin splints? A shin splint is  actually an inflammation of the tendons, muscles and bones surrounding your tibia, or shin bone. Generally, the pain occurs on the inside edge of your shin bone where your muscles attach to the bone. While any vigorous sporting activity can lead to shin splints, most people associate them with running.

Shin Splits Causes

Shin splints are caused when the leg’s muscles and bone tissue are overworked by repetitive physical activity. There are a number of physical reasons that can turn overwork into inflammation:

  • Excessive pronation of the foot;
  • Increase in strain on a muscle;
  • Overstriding;
  • Local fatigue of the surrounding structures, decreasing their ability to absorb shock and transferring it to the shin bone;
  • Inflexible calf muscles, lessening ankle flexibility;
  • Increasing intensity in training.

People who have flat feet or unusually rigid arches are susceptible to shin splints. In addition, running in worn-out shoes can bring on this unwanted inflammation.

Discuss your symptoms with your doctor. He or she may want to conduct some tests to rule out other shin problems, such as stress fractures and tendinitis.

Shin Splits Treatment

what are shin splints
Unfortunately, the treatment for shin splint requires rest from the activity that caused the inflammation – and that means no running for a while. Recovery can take three to six months.

For anyone working toward a goal, it can be frustrating, but you can substitute other aerobic activity such as swimming or using a stationary bike, to maintain your fitness while you recover. A physiotherapist can help prescribe a course of exercises that will keep you in shape without aggravating your injury.

You shouldn’t return to the activity that caused your shin splint until you are pain free for two weeks.

In the meantime, you should find these aids helpful in treating shin splints:

  • Flexibility exercises: Your physiotherapist can assist you in choosing exercises to stretch your lower legs and ease some of the pain.
  • Range of motion exercises: By exercising your ankles, knees, feet and hips, you can relieve pain, reduce inflammation and improve circulation, which aids healing. Ask your physiotherapist to suggest a course of exercise.
  • Ice: Apply ice packs to your shins for 20 minutes at a time a few times a day.
  • Compression: If you have swelling, a compression bandage may help keep it under control.
  • NSAIDs: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen or Aspirin help reduce pain.

How to Prevent Shin Splints

prevent shin splints
In addition to the discomfort they cause, shin splints put a cramp on your training schedule. If you’re preparing for a big race, there’s nothing more frustrating than delays or obstacles that could keep you from meeting your goal. With that in mind, here are some helpful hints on how to prevent shin splints:

  • Slow and steady. As you train, build up to longer distances gradually. Don’t expect to run five kilometres one week and be ready to do 10 the next.
  • Mix it up. Don’t make running your only activity, given the strain it puts on your joints. Combine it with other activities, such as swimming, cycling or rowing, that give you the same cardiovascular boost without the joint stress.
  • Short and sweet. A short stride length is better for your body and helps prevent shin splint. It also helps you increase speed, since quicker leg turnover leads to speed. Two benefits for the price of one!
  • Make it the middle. Landing flat on the middle of your foot prevents stress and injury. If you run on your toes, your calf muscles may become strained, while striking the ground heel first stretches your shin muscles.
  • Shoe cues. Give your feet the extra support they need by selecting neutral shoes or those that are designed for stability or motion control. Ask your physiotherapist for a gait analysis. If you are striking with your heel or overpronating (turning your foot outward), orthotics in your shoes may help keep you aligned properly by providing arch support. It’s an inexpensive way to keep other conditions, such as plantar fasciitis, at bay, too. In addition, make sure to replace your shoes every 500 kilometres. Worn out shoes are a major cause of shin splints, since the wear and tear erodes their support.

Prevent shin splints, but if you can’t avoid them, follow the proper course of treatment so you don’t do yourself permanent harm.

Are Shin Splints causing you discomfort?


injury prevention

How to Exercise Without Injuries

It may be winter and cold or snowy, but exercise still figures prominently in many people’s schedules. If you’ve just started an exercise regimen or tend to just do what you’ve always done without giving it much thought, it’s time to pay closer attention to how you prepare for exercise and how you execute.

The older you get, the easier it is to get injured by doing too much, not being warmed up or making an awkward movement, so why not get into the good habits that help prevent exercise injuries?

Hydration

You wouldn’t start your car without gasoline, so don’t start your body without proper hydration. Water lubricates your system and helps prevent injuries while working out. Ideally, start drinking water 20 minutes before your workout to allow it time to percolate through your system. Drink throughout your activities and afterward to replace fluids lost through sweating.

Nutrition

Exercise requires energy, and you want to make sure your body is ready to take on the challenges you impose on it. It needs access to glycogen for muscles to work properly; otherwise, they are subject to tears that may take time to heal. Don’t put yourself out of action unnecessarily.

Eating carbohydrates prior to working out is helpful in improving performance and may allow you to exercise for a longer period or at a higher intensity. Consuming protein after a workout helps to repair damage done to muscle fibres.

Circulation and Muscles

exercise without injuries
Start any workout, including a run, with a bit of light cardiovascular movement to get your blood moving through your system easily and to loosen your muscles. Jump rope, jog in place or ride an exercise bike for 5 or 10 minutes.

Flexibility

Give your flexibility a boost by doing some stretches after your warm-up. They will help your body handle the stress of exercise without injury.

Best Before Date

Overextending yourself isn’t the best way to demonstrate just how youthful, macho or cool you are. Be realistic as you assess your capabilities and plan an exercise program. Don’t simply assume you can do whatever routine it was you last tried, since that may have actually been years ago. It’s easy to do too much exercise for too long with too much intensity, resulting in injury. So, be realistic and aware.

Sex Matters

We’re talking about gender here. Men and women have different physical susceptibilities that may make certain injuries more likely. It doesn’t mean that men or women should refrain from specific activities; it’s just a reminder to be aware of the dangers before jumping into the fray.

prevent exercise injuries
Generally speaking, men are better at activities that use a rigid plane of motion: Nautilus machines and push-ups, for example. Women usually excel at activities that use multiple or diagonal planes of motion: yoga, Pilates, cycling and stair climbers, for instance.

Variety is the Spice of Life

Triathlons have gained in popularity for a good reason: they require athletes to cross-train, using different muscles for the swimming, biking and running portions of the competition, which helps prevent overuse and injury. Take a leaf from their workout notebooks and vary your routine. If you focus on cardio one day, try strength the following day and put your energies into stretching the next.

Relax

Rest should also be part of any exercise routine. Remember, your body, like any machine, can break down if not maintained properly. Take at least one day a week off from exercising to allow your body to heal itself. In addition, if you’re feeling tired or sore, there’s no shame in skipping a workout. It’s more likely that you’ll be injured during exercise when you’re exhausted and not using proper form. A hot bath with Epsom salts works wonders for sore muscles.

Chill Out

A cool down is especially important if you are engaged in a high-intensity exercise that increases your heart rate and puts a heavy strain on muscles. It allows you to reduce your heart rate gradually and resume normal breathing. It also prevents muscle soreness.

So, get moving – but keep all of these suggestions in mind so you can continue moving injury free!

Experiencing PAIN from your exercise routine?


weekend warrior injuries

How to Avoid Weekend Warrior Injuries

We’ve all been in this position at some point in our lives: the Olympics are underway and we’re oohing and aahing over the incredible feats being performed by the athletes, so we’re inspired with a desire to emulate them. Soon, we’re lacing up our running shoes and setting out on the roads or diving into the pool, even though we may not have participated in either of those sports in ages.

Afterward, of course, our bodies let us know how foolish we have been. If we’re lucky, we may get away with sore muscles; if things go badly, we may suffer a sports injury that needs treatment and healing.

The Most Common Weekend Warrior Injuries

Of course, it’s not only during the Olympics that these unfortunate injuries occur. As we age, those of us who participate in a sport on the weekend, but are sedentary throughout the week, are ripe for sports injuries.

tennis elbow
Weekend warriors, as they’re commonly called, don’t use their muscles regularly, so it’s no surprise their bodies aren’t prepared for the strain put upon them when it’s time for pickup hockey or the weekly softball outing.

Among the common injuries from weekly outings are:

  • Ligament sprains
  • Stress fractures
  • Muscle strains
  • Tendinitis
  • Shin splints
  • Runner’s knee
  • Tennis elbow

How to Prevent Weekend Warrior Injuries

Most weekend warrior injuries are preventable. There’s no need to put your body at risk of injury if you approach physical activity properly.

prevent weekend warrior injuries
Here are some tips to prevent injury while you enjoy your athletic pursuits:

  • Challenge your body: Professional athletes train regularly to stay at the top of their games, so why should you expect to jump onto the ice one night each week and instantly perform like Sidney Crosby? Nor can you ever recapture your glory days as a high school basketball star – youth has its advantages. However, there is no reason you can’t perform well as long as you prepare. Try to challenge your body at least twice a week by using the muscles you’ll be using in the game or the competition so they are ready for the workload you will expect them to undertake.
  • Bet on balance: Once you’ve decided to exercise more than once a week, employ some balance in the activities you choose. Include cardiovascular activity, stretching and weight training in your routine. Cross-training can prevent injuries that result from overuse: relying on the same group of muscles and tendons regularly.
  • Slow and steady: As much as you’d like to run a marathon the week after you’ve started jogging, it’s unrealistic and dangerous. Begin with a level of intensity that is manageable and increase it by 10 per cent weekly, allowing your body to become accustomed to the new level of activity.

Stretching, Hydration and Equipment

Stretching is important for everyone over the age of 30. Muscles get tight, especially leg muscles. If they are overused, the body will compensate by relying on other areas, such as the lower back.

stretching

  • Get warm: Stretching before your activity may relax key muscles, shutting them down so that they are susceptible to strains; they will be less receptive to dynamic movements. Instead, consider an active warm-up. Hockey players take their warm-up skate before a game, and you should also prepare your body for activity with movements that increase the blood flow to soft tissues while activating muscles. Examples of active warm-up moves include high knees, shuffling, throwing and jogging.
  • Hello, hydration: People generally don’t drink enough fluids during the day, so it’s likely that you’ll begin your athletic pursuit at a disadvantage. Research has shown that even a five per cent loss of bodily water content can have a major impact on agility, reaction time and speed. Don’t wait until you are thirsty to drink – by the time you notice your thirst, you’re already dehydrated. Instead, get in the habit of drinking water or other replenishing fluids at regular intervals throughout your day. Soon, it will seem like a no brainer.
  • Equip yourself: Ensure that you have the proper equipment for the sport you are undertaking, and make sure the equipment is in good shape so that it doesn’t contribute to possible injury. Shoes, for instance, break down and can’t offer the necessary foot stability. They can also lead to foot injuries if your wear pattern results in a compromised foot position. The rule of thumb – or foot, in this case – is to get new running shoes after about 800 kilometres (500 miles) of use.

How to Deal with a Weekend Warrior Injury

If you have ventured onto the playing field before reading this article, you may already have first-hand knowledge of weekend warrior injuries.

weekend warrior injury
If you do suffer an injury while playing sports, follow the RICE method:

  • Rest the injured area to allow for healing.
  • Ice the injury on and off for 10 to 15 minute periods during the day to keep swelling down and alleviate pain.
  • Apply compression to the affected area.
  • Elevate the injured area above heart level to prevent or decrease swelling.

If the RICE method doesn’t yield results or you are still in pain, don’t shrug off the injury.

Physiotherapists can do movement assessments, provide treatment and design appropriate home exercise programs to assist your healing. There’s no need to suffer endlessly as a result of being a weekend warrior!

Suffering from a weekend warrior INJURY?


Preventing falls in seniors

How to Prevent Falls in Seniors

Falls in elderly Canadians are one of the main causes of moderate to severe injuries, including sprains, fractures, and head traumas. According to research, one in three elderly Canadians fall each year, and often the result is an injury that can permanently reduce their mobility and independence.

The fear of falling can be detrimental to the social, physical and cognitive health of a senior. Normal activities that come from leaving the home and venturing out to participate in social events help maintain a senior’s health, muscle strength, and balance, among other benefits.

How to Prevent Falls in Seniors

The truth is that falls in seniors are preventable. Modifying the home and reducing hazards outside the home in the community can greatly reduce falls. It is also important to identify and be mindful of other risk factors, such as side effects of medication or physical weakness.

A physiotherapist can help to improve the physical components related to fall prevention and rehabilitation. Physiotherapists can assist the elderly in maintaining their muscle strength, coordination and flexibility to recover from injuries and in preventing falls in seniors from occurring.

An added benefit is their ability to educate seniors on hazards that may contribute to falls, as well as work with them to build and strengthen muscle tone and coordination. By reviewing a senior’s medical history, assessing their current physical condition, and doing a series of tests that measure strength and flexibility, the physiotherapist can create a comprehensive program that will improve the senior’s physical function.

Tips for Preventing Falls in Seniors

  • Wear a solid, well-made pair of shoes that provide support and cushioning that is necessary for movement and walking
  • Avoid any shoes that may be unstable or slippery, such as those with an open-toe or with high-heels or slippers
  • Make sure areas of movement, such as stairwells and hallways, are well lit
  • Use a walking aid, such as a cane or walker – and view them as a source of aid and strength, not weakness or embarrassment
  • Ensure that the tips on canes and walkers are not worn and in good working order
  • Sit, rather than stand, while getting dressed
  • Rise slowly from sitting to standing or lying down to sitting to reduce possible dizziness or instability.
  • Install handrails, if necessary, in bathrooms or hallways.
  • Wipe up floor spills immediately.
  • Don’t take unnecessary risks by standing on furniture or putting yourself into an unsafe situations; wait for help or use a secure stepladder.
  • Ensure feet are well planted on the ground when getting out of a vehicle.
  • Put everyday items at eye level so you aren’t reaching up to grab things.
  • Be mindful around small children or pets, which can easily get underfoot and cause a fall.

Need help PREVENTING FALLS?


preventing winter sport injuries

Preventing Winter Sport Injuries

During the winter months, people from all over the world participate in the popular winter sports of skiing and snowboarding. They are both fun and exciting winter activities, but each can also put you at risk for injury. There are many things that you can do for preventing winter sport injuries this winter season and maximize your time on the slopes.

Common Risk Factors for Winter Sport Injuries

In both sports, there are some common risk factors that can contribute to winter sport injuries:

  • Fatigue due to skiing/snowboarding without rest
  • Skiing/snowboarding above your ability level
  • Improper/faulty equipment
  • Dehydration/fatigue
  • Skiing/snowboarding in out-of-bounds areas
  • Failure to adhere to posted warning signs
  • Not maintaining proper code of conduct/safe practices

In skiers, the most common winter sport injuries include:

  • Knee injuries, including MCL and ACL, strains or tears
  • Knee sprains
  • Shoulder injuries from falls
  • Broken leg
  • Thumb or wrist injuries, also from falls
  • Head or neck injuries (less common)

In snowboarders, the most common winter sport injuries include:

  • Wrist and hand injuries due to the nature of falling while strapped into a snowboard
  • Collarbone and shoulder injuries
  • Head and neck injuries

Preventing Winter Sport Injuries

Here are some safety precautions that can be taken to help prevent winter sport injuries this winter:

  1. Prepare your body by warming up beforehand. For example, do some stretching and take a brisk walk to warm up your muscles, or start out on an easy run.
  2. Ensure you have proper equipment that fits your body and skill. Make sure ski/snowboard boots fit properly, bindings are in good working order, and ski length is appropriate for your height and skill level.
  3. Wear safety gear, such as a helmet, and wrist guards if you’re snowboarding.
  4. Be sure to practice proper skiing and snowboarding techniques. If possible, take lessons to learn these techniques.
  5. Stay on marked trails: Going off trail can take you into unsafe territory with unpredictable obstacles, such as trees, rocks, and debris.
  6. Rest if you’re tired, as many injuries happen when fatigued.
  7. Stay hydrated.
  8. If you’re skiing with others, be sure to stay together.

It’s also important to understand the physiology involved in snowboarding and skiing. They are both sports that require a good deal of leg strength and core strength to be effective. There are some exercises that will help you to prepare for a season of skiing or snowboarding, and strengthen your muscles to help preventing winter sport injuries. For example:

Double Leg Squats: in this exercise, you place your feet a shoulder width apart and squat down, keeping your heels on the floor. Stick your bottom out and focus on using your gluteal muscles to lift and lower your weight. Your shins should be parallel to one another, and you should be replicating the squatting position that you remain in for most of the time you are on skis. Do this for 10-15 repetitions holding midway through the squat. This exercise will help build your gluteal and quadriceps muscles – essential for skiing.

Side-to-Side Skaters: Stand on one leg and take a wide step to the side with your other leg; next, stand on that leg and take another large step back to where you were. Keep your pelvis level and ensure that your knees don’t buckle inward. Continue this exercise for as long as you can, or up to 3 minutes. The more slowly you go, the more difficult it will become.

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