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Knottted Muscle

When I  first got to Seattle, the first thing I did (after eating of course), was to schedule a sports massage.  This isn’t something I normally do while on vacation, but our hotel has a nice spa, so I thought my legs could use a little R&R.  I have had quite a few sports massages throughout my running life and every time I think to myself, it sure would be nice if I could afford to get one of these every two weeks.

Wednesday, and back in May when I had a few sports massages, I was told that I had some seriously knotted muscles.  I understand that this is what is referred to as “trigger points” and that they are not a good thing.  The way the guy put it to me during my massage was muscle fibers are suppose to lay flat, beside one another.  When they experience a lot of force and trauma, it is like they become braided.  Since recovering from my last running injury, I have been quite diligent in using my foam roller to try and work out these trigger points.  I thought I was doing a good job, but the pain from Wednesday has led me to think otherwise.

This brought about several questions.  First, what else can I do for these trigger points?  Second, how can I prevent them from reoccurring?  And third, do all athletes experience this?

As far as getting rid of muscle knots and trigger points, the main recommendations are massage and foam rolling.  Some articles I read suggested the use of NSAIDs to help with TP, but I avoid these at all costs so I’m going to skip over this recommendation.  I also learned that you can get trigger point injections to relieve the knotted muscle.  With TPI, a doctor injects an anesthetic into the trigger point, the TP becomes inactive and pain is alleviated. Acupuncture is also used to treat TP.  Another way to help with the relief of TP is the use of electrotherapy. (I wrote an article about this a few months ago, and you can read it here.)  Here is a list with a few other suggestions.

I’m really interested in learning how to prevent these trigger points.  It would be kind of crappy to think this is something I’m always going to have to live with as long as I’m running.  Some recommendations to prevent TP include: stay hydrated, be sure to consume enough potassium and calcium, foam roll, use a golf ball under your feet, pay attention to body alignment, eat anti-inflammatory foods, allow enough recovery time after hard workouts, and correct any muscle imbalances.  I try to do all of these recommendations but I really think I could try a little harder.  A soft pretzel from Flying Saucer probably isn’t that anti-inflammatory.

It seems trigger points are pretty common among athletes from all different sports.  Here are a few professional athletes who use trigger point therapy to help their performance and prevent injuries.

Although I can not get a massage every two weeks as I would like, I can still be more proactive in addressing this issue.  Foam rolling needs to become more of a habit.  I’m pretty sure the reason I do not do it as often as I should is because it does hurt.  But in the spirit of being a lifelong runner, I’ll embrace the the foam roller. 🙂

And on a side note, I’ve been practicing my visualization a LOT and working on my mantra.  The mantra that I have been using not only during my workouts, but also in my day to day activities is “You always have a choice.”  It’s crazy, but it has really worked wonders for me.  When I’m doing a hard workout and I want to quit, I just tell myself you always have a choice and I keep going.  When I wanted to take a nap yesterday instead of working, I reminded myself that I had a choice, so I got up and kept working.  The mind is a pretty amazing thing.

Happy Trails and Happy Running,


Check out my delicious sea bass from last night. It was amazing!

5 Comments Post a comment
  1. Emily #

    Hi Tracie, I really liked this post and I have one other idea to add that may hopefully be helpful. I have had issues with hip pain and ITB problems since I started training for my half ironman last fall. I started see the massage therapist at my chiropractor’s office and it was the best thing I ever did. He did suggest, along with the foam roller, tennis ball, golf ball, and “The Stick” (which is my favorite) to freeze a dixie cup of water. When you are ready, peel back the paper and use it to massage the adhesions in your muscles and fascia, those nasty trigger points. Cold is anti-inflammatory, the ice causes blood to flow to the area, so that’s why you see your skin turn red, and the rigidity of the frozen ice helps you work deeply into the adhesion in a way that your fingers and the foam roller can’t. It has been my saving grace!!!

    July 27, 2012
    • Thank you so much for sharing this Emily!! I also use The Stick and really like it. But I LOVE the idea of freezing water and using it massage out the trigger points. I would have never thought of that so thanks for sharing. I’m on vacation right now but as soon as I get home, I’ll be trying it out. Best of luck with the training for your half ironman 🙂

      July 27, 2012
      • Emily #

        Yep, get a mini muffin pan and the 3oz. dixie cups and set them up in your freezer! It works!

        July 27, 2012
  2. I’ve come to believe that developing adhesions (which I prefer to call them instead of knots) is nearly unavoidable for many runners, and you must learn instead how to cope with them. Massage (specifically ART or active release therapy) is the most helpful, but foam rolling can do a lot in prolonging your time between ART sessions (as they are not cheap and are time consuming). However, what I’ve discovered about foam rolling is that I’m often rolling the wrong thing, or using the wrong tool.
    As a case of the former, I have had some hamstring tightness (and yes, adhesions) of late. However, my chiropractor theorized that these are due to a tight quad and IT band, and thus recommended focusing there instead of the hamstring. And I do believe it has worked – since that appointment (which helped some but not entirely), I have been pretty diligent about using the approach he recommended, and, while logging ~113 miles over nine days, including two twenty-plus miles. All this after I was on the verge of giving up on the season.
    And for the second, I’ve found the traditional foam roller (or, more specifically, the Grid from Trigger Point Therapy) has not worked well on my calves. Instead, I bought their ball and block set and this has been much better at targeting the adhesions that run along 3 different axes in my right calf. The relief hasn’t been 100%, but it’s definitely been an improvement.

    July 27, 2012
  3. Hi Tracie,
    Definitely the foam roller does wonders: don’t leave home without it!
    My physiotherapist uses a technique called Intramuscular Stimulation (IMS).

    I haven’t had anything relieve my IT bands with quite the same effectiveness and I have treatments done anywhere that feels tight (back, quads, hamstrings, glutes, shoulders, neck, etc). It’s kept me running and kept my body happy.
    Hope you are enjoying Seattle. Sounds like the running is good.

    July 27, 2012

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