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  • Whether it's after a long day hunched over your computer or a week of stressing out about

  • a big test, you probably have had muscle knots before.

  • These knots -- otherwise known as myofascial trigger points -- are pretty much what they

  • sound like: painful spots in your muscles.

  • They're different from the kind of muscle soreness that shows up a day or two after

  • you exercise.

  • But biologists still aren't entirely sure what these trigger points are -- or how to

  • fix them.

  • On the one hand, the physical sensation of a muscle knot seems to be real and measurable,

  • and it's sometimes linked to severe, ongoing pain.

  • The evidence for this comes mostly from magnetic resonance elastography imaging, a form of

  • MRI that allows researchers to examine soft tissues -- like muscles.

  • The images sometimes show V-shaped patterns in muscles that correspond to the little nodules

  • you can feel at the trigger points.

  • So it's possible that they come from overactive nerves, which send too much of the chemical

  • signal that causes muscles to contract -- which shows up as those patterns on scans.

  • Those extra tense muscles would prevent normal blood flow through the muscle tissue, which

  • would explain why they hurt.

  • If that's the case, treatments like massage, physical therapy, and anesthetics might help

  • by relaxing the tissue, restoring normal blood flow, and reducing pain.

  • But some studies have shown that they don't help, which could mean that our understanding

  • is flawed.

  • For example, in most patients, when researchers injected trigger points with meds that should've

  • stopped the muscles from over-contracting, it didn't affect pain levels.

  • And in some studies, many of the other recommended treatments barely helped more than a placebo.

  • It's just hard to know for sure, because these muscle knots aren't well understood.

  • The diagnostic criteria aren't clear, which means that studies aren't all that consistent

  • -- what one group of researchers considers a muscle knot might not count for a second

  • group.

  • So it's hard to compare results.

  • But there is at least one thing that scientists can agree on: understanding these trigger

  • points is probably important for understanding chronic pain disorders, like fibromyalgia,

  • or chronic, widespread muscle pain.

  • Because in order to properly treat pain, especially chronic pain, doctors need to figure out what's

  • actually causing it.

  • And maybe, along the way, they will learn more about where those hard, uncomfortable

  • knots come from -- and how to get rid of them.

  • Thanks for asking, and thanks especially to all of our patrons on Patreon who keep these

  • answers coming.

  • If you would like to submit questions to be answered, or get these Quick Questions a few

  • days before everyone else, go to

  • And don't forget to go to and subscribe!

Whether it's after a long day hunched over your computer or a week of stressing out about

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What Are Muscle Knots?

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    joey joey posted on 2021/05/05
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