Muscle knots, also called trigger points are tender areas of increased tension at a place in your body that cause pain, function limitation, and many other serious problems.
If you have muscle knots you might be familiar with the pain, numbness, or burning sensation it causes during movement or at rest.
People usually prefer knot massages or chiropractic adjustments for relieving the pain caused by these knots. However, there is always a debate about which treatment approach is better.
To determine which treatment is better for you, I will let you know some basic differences between both approaches and when to use what.
Starting with the cause of muscle knot formation, I would call it a vicious cycle.
Consider the two basic elements, lack of movement and muscle tension as the culprits for your knots.
If you have a bad posture due to remaining in a fixed position for a long time, you have restricted your body movements, and over time your muscle gets short because of the tension built up in your muscles. This tension if not resolved, becomes a knot or trigger point.
Or it can happen the other way around, an already existing knot, limits your body’s range of motion, creating an adaptive posture, leading to a permanent bad posture and lack of movement.
Yes, either one of them can cause the other. But how do you deal with both?
Chiropractic focuses on the bones, joints, and their alignment whereas, massage focuses on the muscles. For releasing the knots, you need to understand the effect of both approaches on muscle tension, blood flow, and posture.
Chiropractic adjustments of the joints in the spine are done to correct any faulty position of the bones, and since muscles have got their attachments to bones, it also affects your muscles.
Research has proven the beneficial effects of chiropractic adjustment for reducing muscle tension and pain. That signifies how it can help reduce or prevent muscle knots.
Similarly, knot massage using various techniques can also reduce muscle tension or soreness.
Increased blood flow is critical for healing and growth. Chiropractic adjustments increase the blood flow to the surrounding muscles because it promotes body movements and manipulative techniques.
Similarly, knot massage helps increase circulation in the region which is evident from the fact that the region under treatment turns red and warm after a massage session.
Chiropractic adjustment directly affects bone and joint alignment and thus promotes a good posture. Knot massage, however, indirectly affects posture by reducing muscle tightness and increasing flexibility.
Now that you understand the factors responsible for your muscle knots and how each modality can affect those factors, here is how you decide which approach to use.
When to Prefer a Knot Massage Over a Chiropractor?
Since knot massage focuses on the muscle fibers, I would recommend you to go for it if you have knots that are painful all the time and you have problems moving your body because of the pain.
These knots are called active trigger points. They give you constant pain and limit your range of motion to a greater extent. On palpation, you will feel tender spots deep in your muscles.
Chiropractic adjustments can not effectively manage this type of knot because these are present in the deep muscle layers and you require intense pressure on accurate points to release such knots.
A chiropractor deals with your joints and bones which makes it the best option if you have painless knots that affect your posture.
These knots are called latent trigger points, which don’t cause pain at rest and are only painful when the muscle is fatigued.
These knots keep your muscles short for a prolonged time and distort your posture with again leads to various other points of tension and knots in your body.
The chiropractic adjustment improved your joint play, increases mobility, and subsequently, your muscle tension reduces that also resolves the painless knots as the muscle length increases over time.
A good example here is the sternocleidomastoid knots in front of the neck that causes muscle shortening and a forward head posture.
It is always best to consult an expert physiotherapist, massage therapist, or chiropractor to decide which one is better for you. Depending on your condition, your therapist might decide that you need a combination of both of these treatments.
But which one should you go for first? Should you go to the chiropractor or massage first? Let me explain.
If you have multiple deeper knots and your therapist identifies that without massaging out these knots, it is useless to do chiropractic adjustment because no matter what the shortened muscles will pull again on your bones, then it is best to get a few knot massages sessions first.
You often need a massage after a chiropractic adjustment to reduce muscle soreness and increase the relaxation effect.
A knot massage after chiropractic adjustment seems necessary to stretch and lengthen the muscle and sustain the residual effect of the manipulation done.
Deciding between massage and chiropractic for knots depends on factors like the type of knots, the amount of muscle tension, and your general health condition.
Your therapist might recommend you get a combination of both therapies to relieve the pain and mobility problems. So consult an expert professional for a thorough assessment and diagnosis first.