It started as a tightness in my calf not even a half mile into the run. I stopped and tried to stretch it out. It felt a little better. Kept going. The tightness came back and now it was increasing. I stopped and stretched again. “This is really going to affect my time.” I got back to running. The tightness returned.
“OK, stretching isn’t working. I’m just going to run through it. It’ll go away after awhile.” But it didn’t. It got tighter and tighter. Until, shortly after mile 4 the pain in my calf muscle erupted into the edge of a dull knife tearing down my leg. I limped back in pain wondering what I was going to do next.
Sound familiar? Then you have experienced the joy that is a muscle knot, or trigger point as the medical community calls it. Or in my case, several of them.
The good news is that muscle knots are easily treatable.
While there is some disagreement about what exactly causes trigger points, what gets rid of them is without doubt; deep tissue massage (whether manually or with a massage gun).
One note, while it’s easy to treat trigger points, it WILL be painful.
How To Relieve Muscle Knots/Triggerpoints
The most effective treatment for calf muscle knots from running is deep tissue massage.
Unfortunately the type of massage we’re talking about here isn’t the kind that makes you feel like you’re in heaven.
A deep tissue massage is a specific set of techniques used to get inside and break up the knots, or more specifically, the abnormal connective adhesions that bind together (also called a triggerpoint).
You want to get back up and running as soon as possible right?
You have three options for getting your muscle knots ironed out:
- Go see a local chiropractor
- Get an electric massage gun and self-massage
- Massage yourself manually with your hands.
In my opinion, getting a massage gun is the most effective treatment for muscle knots. Especially since a one-time purchase allows you to fix issues as they come up again in the future.
In fact, your chiropractor will probably use a massage gun on you, so getting your own device would cut out the middle man and allow you to heal on your own.
If manual self-massage with your hands is your only option, you may want to look into a helpful tool, such as this triggerpoint/self massage tool, this allows you to dig into all of those hard to reach triggerpoint areas.
This Is Going To Hurt
According to Wikipedia, deep, tissue massage “sessions are often quite intense as a result of the deliberate, focused work.” This type of massage is more like what you’re used to getting from your older brother when mom wasn’t looking.
Sometimes you just gotta suck it up.
There’s a phrase in the Marine Corps, “suck it up,” meaning sometimes you just gotta put up with some stuff. If you want the quickest, most effective relief from muscle knots, you’re going to have to “suck it up.”
If you are going to see a chiropractor or massage therapist, make sure they know how to properly do deep tissue massage. Not everyone who calls themselves a massage therapist is going to be as well trained or practiced in the art of deep, tissue massage.
If you aren’t already using a massage therapist you trust, check Yelp for reviews on local deep tissue massage therapists or look for chiropractic clinics that focus on sports medicine and see if they also employ massage therapists.
Don’t let price be your deciding factor here. You get what you pay for.
We’re trying to get back to our training schedule as quickly as possible, right?
How To Do Self Massage
By the time I limped back the 4 miles to my truck, I knew I was in trouble.
I could barely walk.
There was no way I was waiting until Monday to take care of this. No fear. You can work on these knots yourself with an electric massage gun such as the Vybe.
Massage guns are getting more and more popular. If you’ve never tried one, think of it as the best (and worst) recovery tool for keep your body on track.
It works by quickly reciprocating back and forth. This movement works to break apart all of the muscle knots that bind together.
And it does all of this in seconds.
If you suffer from frequent muscle knots, a highly recommend that you consider picking up one of these self recovery tools.
They are as good as a chiropractic visit, except without the hassle and recurring cost.
Massage guns tend to be fairly expensive, with some top models like the Theragun going for $500+.
I recommend the Vybe by Exerscribe. It’s a mid-range gun with most of the features of the high end models, without the high price.
It’s only downside is that it is loud.
If you can live with that, then it’ll be a good option for you.
According to renowned triggerpoint therapist William Huhn, here are the steps you should take once you’ve rooted out that knot.
1. Stop, or greatly reduce your physical activity for the rest of the day.
2. Drink lots of water and take 400mg of powdered magnesium (magnesium helps your muscles to relax, which will help to dissipate the knot faster, plus it will help to relax your whole body and improve recovery).
3. Keep the muscle warm.
4. Take an Epsom salt bath as soon as possible after triggerpoint therapy.
5. Gradually reintroduce physical activity and stretching allowing the muscle continue to heal over the next few days.
I also found that some Icy Hot and ibuprofen reduced the pain and allowed me to get a good night’s sleep.
Be conservative with the ibuprofen though, my chiropractor says every dose is like “taking a shot of whiskey to your liver”, not good!