Technological advancements have simplified a lot of things for us. Computers, cell phones and various other devices definitely help us in easily accomplishing certain tasks, for which we would, otherwise, have had to put in a lot of effort. Useful information is available to us, just at a click of the mouse. While technology has made life easier, one cannot ignore the flip side of these technological advancements. These days, a majority of people, spend a lot of their time working on computers and have undoubtedly become highly susceptible to postural problems. As we slouch or sit in a hunched-up posture while working on a computer, the muscles as well as the intervertebral discs on the cervical spine often bear the brunt of the tension or postural stress. Such a postural imbalance may lead to the formation of muscle knots or tension knots in the neck or upper back. Given below is some information on what causes knots in neck along with the treatment options.
What Causes Tension Knots in the Neck?
Tension knots, also known as muscle knots, are medically referred to as myofascial trigger points. These are localized spots in the muscles that may be caused when the muscles are subjected to constant stress or tension. Under normal circumstances, muscles located in the spine alternate between an active mode and a passive mode. Since the muscles are not designed to be under constant stress, it is extremely essential that the stress or load is taken off as the muscles relax in the passive mode. If any activity acts as a trigger and causes the neck muscles to stay under constant tension, one is most likely to develop tension knots. Though some practitioners cite the accumulation of abnormal protein deposits within the muscle tissue as the triggering factor behind the development of muscle knots in the neck area, this theory has not been corroborated by medical research.
Tension knots in the neck could even be attributed to an underlying medical condition. Fibromyalgia refers to a group of rheumatoid disorders wherein intense pain in muscles or connective tissues may be felt. Certain areas in the body may be extremely sensitive to touch. Such areas are referred to as tender points. At times, fibromyalgia may even co-exist with another condition called myofascial pain syndrome. This is a condition wherein the patients have active trigger points. Unlike tender points where the pain doesn't radiate to other parts of the body, pain may be referred to the shoulders or upper back from a myofascial trigger point in neck. Besides such medical conditions, a sedentary lifestyle may also make one highly susceptible to neck tension. Poor posture and repetitive mechanical stress have been proved to be factors that may make one susceptible to this condition.
Indulging in any activity that stresses the cervical spine beyond tolerable limits is most likely to lead to the formation of a trigger point in the neck. Repetitive actions that cause a postural imbalance may put a lot of load on the muscles in the neck or upper back. One's line of work may involve actions that may throw the cervical spine out of alignment. This is especially so, in case of people who work on computers. When you work on a computer, you are most likely to move your head forward, as you type or look at the screen. This causes the neck muscles to get shortened. The muscles in the upper back region also get stretched in the process. If one stays in such a position, while driving, working or performing any household activity, especially for long stretches of time, one is bound to suffer from neck pain.
Treatment of Knots in the Neck
Reducing the tension in the neck muscles is the best way to prevent or treat tension knots. First of all, there is a great need to correct postural defects. Maintaining a proper posture at all times is definitely the best way to prevent tension knots. Since tension knots form when the muscles remain in an active mode and are unable to relax, it is extremely essential that one refrains from any activity that may stress the muscles. Those who have a desk job, and need to work on a computer throughout the day, must make sure that they perform neck exercises such as neck rotation, neck flexion and neck extension.
Performing certain neck stretches and shoulder shrugs may also provide relief from neck and shoulder pain. One must also take breaks and avoid sitting at one place for long hours. While correcting the posture is a preventive step one must take, those who have been diagnosed with this condition can follow trigger point therapy to relieve neck and shoulder tension. Application of heat, deep tissue massage, acupuncture, electrical stimulation, use of muscle relaxants or other drugs are some of the treatment options. Applying heat pads help in softening the tissues and can fix the problem of tightened neck muscles. It is believed that these trigger points could also get activated due to psychological distress. Relaxation techniques such as yoga and meditation promote emotional well-being and would, therefore, prove beneficial in the treatment of tension knots caused due to stress.
On a concluding note, postural problems emerge as the most common cause of tension knots. It is therefore essential to maintain a correct posture at all times. Slouching or sitting with the head leaning forward and shoulders in a hunched-up position, is bound to burden the neck muscles, and this postural imbalance must be corrected. One must make sure that muscles are not overworked and get the rest they need. The earlier this condition is diagnosed, the better would be the chances of a speedy recovery. So, if you are suffering from recurring episodes of neck pain or neck stiffness, and your ability to perform daily activities is getting affected, consult a doctor immediately.