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!