Muscle knots can be a real pain in the neck—or back or thigh or butt. The ability to keep muscles functioning properly is often taken for granted. If you're reading this, you are probably nodding your head in agreement right now.
Knots, or muscle adhesions as they are commonly referred to, are painful areas of tense muscle tissues. They are typically the result of overworked and improperly recovered muscles, but they can also be symptoms of stress or dehydration.
Muscles are made up of tiny fibers running parallel to one another, which are vital for the ability to contract and perform. Exercise and other forms of stress to the muscles cause tiny “micro-tears” in these fibers. Tearing may sound like a bad thing, but micro-tears are the reason why muscles grow bigger and stronger. However, too many micro-tears in one area may lead to adhesions and knots. Aside from causing pain and discomfort, muscle adhesions may increase the risk of injury. They should not go untreated.
Have you ever wondered what else exercise affects besides your muscle? Believe it or not it affects your brain! Don't believe me? Try a few experiments on yourself. Pick a day when you are feeling not so motivated to do anything and go for a ten minute walk or run, do yoga, weight lifting or whatever your choice exercise is. Then see how you feel when you're done. Then pick a day when you're feeling angry or frustrated about something or kind of down and do the same. What were your results?
Let’s start with one of the most practical immediate benefits of breaking a sweat: exercise combats stress. Exercise is a powerful way to combat feelings of stress because it causes immediate increases in levels of key neurotransmitters, including serotonin, noradrenalin, dopamine and endorphins, that are often depleted by anxiety and depression. That’s why going for a run or spending 30 minutes on the elliptical can boost our moods immediately—combatting the negative feelings we often associate with chronic stressors we deal with every day.
Exercise improves our ability to shift and focus attention. In my lab, we have also demonstrated that exercise improves our ability to shift and focus attention. Even casual exercisers will recognize this effect. It’s that heightened sense of focus that you feel right after you’ve gotten your blood flowing, whether it be a brisk walk with the dog or a full-on Crossfit workout. These findings suggest that if you have a big presentation or meeting where you need your focus and attention to be at its peak, you should get in a workout ahead of time to maximize those brain functions.