The science behind achy back bumps and what you can do fix and prevent.

Picture this:

You’re waiting on your friend and you find yourself leaning with your back propped against a pillar. You move slightly to one side, adjusting your feet, and an achy shiver transcends your body in a wave of satisfaction. You found one: an uninvited stress knot. Whether it’s long hours in front of the computer screen or the daily commute, the typical modern lifestyle is a breeding ground for stress knots.

But what exactly are stress knots and why do we get them?

Stress knots are the result of muscle fibers that cannot relax for one of multiple reasons, including lack of exercise, overuse or injury of muscles, anxiety, dehydration, and bad posture, to name a few.  Daniel J. Leizman, MD, a pain management specialist at the Cleveland Clinic says that most stress knots happen in the trapezius muscle, the large muscle that stretches from your neck, down your back and over to each shoulder. Some stress knots can even occur in your glutes. Where ever you find them, they will usually feel sensitive to the touch, and can even become inflamed or swollen.

It’s super important to get to the root of your muscle tension and tackle it before the muscles seize or spasm, creating a greater, more long-term problem.

So you’re thinking, “well, that’s great, but how do I fix it?”

Remember that guy from earlier, massaging his back in public with the pillar? We know a better way, a few, actually.

Massage therapy increases circulation to the muscles, releasing the tightly wound muscle fibers, along with stress and back pain. Regular massage therapy from a licensed therapist can prevent long-term fiber build up in the muscles, which could make the tension more difficult (read: more painful) to remove. Therapists here at Revive Massage Therapy & Sports Wellness will work with you at your comfort level and create a plan for managing and preventing back pain from muscle tension.

Muscle rubs such as Biofreeze, Tiger Balm, and other products with ingredients like arnica and camphor are a great way to soothe back muscles after a workout or anytime you experience muscle soreness.

Exercise is a huge factor in preventing stress knots. The muscles get a good stretch and a “cleaning” of sorts from all the fresh blood pumped throughout the body in a single workout session. Since stress knots can be caused by mental and emotional stressors, exercise is a great way to combat stress knots from this particular source, because of the added bonus of endorphins, or “happy chemicals” released in the brain during exercise.

And as always, drinking plenty of water, taking time to relax, and getting a good night’s sleep never hurt anyone.