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Ask A therapist! What is an adhesion (and why should I care)?

Heather Oct 14, 2013

If you have gotten a massage before you have probably heard the term "Adhesion".  Most people just refer to them as 'knots' because that is exactly what they feel like.  Thick knots of muscle fiber.  People can get them in any muscle, though they are most commonly found in the shoulders and back.  These are places where the muscle has become chronically contracted.  It can be an entire muscle, but more than likely it is a small band within the greater muscle.  When you run your hand over the area, you can actually feel the muscle's contraction.

Things that cause adhesions are dehydration, overuse, and injury.  If your muscles are too dehydrated to relax, they will remain tight so be sure to drink plenty of water every day!  In our last post we talked about muscle memory and how your muscles will remember how you use them, and try to maintain that position.  When you spend much of your day doing one thing over and over it causes those muscles to be overworked and can lead not only to adhesions but muscle tears and nerve entrapment.  Injury to the muscle causes the muscle to contract around the injury site to try and keep us from harming it any more than we already have.  If left untreated they can become chronic.  

Adhesions can be invisible, after all contracted muscle doesn't hurt.  But contracted muscle doesn't allow blood or lymph to feed its cells.  The toxins and waste products begin to build up in the cell because it is unable to move these fluids and the cell begins to die.  It is then that the adhesion begins to hurt.  The longer it is left untreated, the more the pain grows, the tighter the muscles around it become.  As you can see, it's self-perpetuating.  The best way to treat an adhesion is with massage and stretching.  

A good massage therapist will be able to address each adhesion, show you range of motion exercises, and direct you on how to modify your daily behavior in order to heal the damaged tissue.  Feel free to ask them questions!  Be directly involved with your care and you will get the most out of it!

Share your thoughts, leave a comment!

Comments (7)

Rita on Jun 07, 2014
I had a knee full. replacement 3months ago went on a machine to bend it but still have adhesions just above my knee have been swimming every day walking excercising is there anything else I can do to rid my body of them I am still using 1 crutch I also have physio every week

Alex Nunez on Jan 23, 2015
Thanks for the article. It cleared a couple of things up in my mind. The heart of my practice is dealing with the Chronic Tension Cycle in muscles. I had a client ask about "adhesion's" so I wanted to look it up to verify that what we were doing was the same idea. One point though, when you said the muscle is not able to be fed by blood and lymph when in a contracted state, I wasn't clear about this. My understanding about lymph was that the lymph system is to absorb and eliminate waste. Your thoughts.

Eliz on Apr 17, 2015
What kind of massage is beneficial for abdominal adhesions?

Silvia. bonet on May 20, 2015
Very good article. Was to the point

DR.UPADHAYAY on May 28, 2015
deep friction massage and ultrasound does wonders in releasing the adhesion ...

Jake Edward Brooks on May 10, 2016
Hey this article is really great, I like the holistic approach to treating knots, as opposed to something more invasive. I shared the article to www.daocloud.com so more wellness enthusiasts can learn from it.

Edie Anderson on Aug 30, 2016
I have a contracted muscle /adhesion under my scapula. It has been chronic for years. Acts up when under alot of stress. It's occurring right now. Going for deep massage & now a new chiropractor. It feels like a knife in that area. I am only told that the area feels very tight & they can feel "knot" I might get relief for day or two. But it's really wearing me down. Any suggestions for permanent relief. Help!

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