Muscle knots (Everything you need to know + tips for relief)

November 2020 newsletter.

Text from: Canadian Chiropractic Association.

Muscle knots are typically found in your back, shoulders, and neck. They are stiff bands of muscle that have a hard knob in the centre, which is known as a trigger point. The pain can either pop up spontaneously (active) or when the trigger point is pressed (latent). But in all cases, muscle knots cause pain to radiate beyond the trigger point into the surrounding muscles.

 

What causes muscle knots?

Muscle knots, also known as myofascial trigger points, are complex and have a variety of possible causes. There is a lot more research to be conducted on the matter, but the best available evidence suggests that muscle knots are the result of overuse such as heavy lifting or repetitive activities. Other causes may include: psychological stress, poor ergonomics, bad posture, fatigue, dehydration, sleep disturbances and joint problems.

Trapezius muscle trigger points and their referred pain areas.
 
What are the symptoms of muscle knots?

Pain is the primary symptom of muscle knots. Most people agree that muscle knots feel swollen, tense, or bumpy, and cause an aching sensation. Depending on where in the body the muscle knot is located, it may cause seemingly unrelated pain in other areas. For example, a muscle knot in the neck can send pain into the base of the skull, causing a tension headache.

How are muscle knots diagnosed?

Diagnosing a muscle knot requires a physical examination by an experienced professional such as a chiropractor. The examiner will assess the area of concern for three things: a taut band of muscle, a tender nodule, and the reaction of the patient to physical pressure.

 

How are muscle knots treated?

There are several options, but the most common include stretching, chiropractic care, exercise, massage therapy and ultrasound therapy. Whichever option you choose, the main goal is to release the trigger point to reduce pain and increase mobility by breaking up the knotted tissue and calming inflamed nerves.

 

How can you prevent muscle knots in the first place?

  • Improve your posture by sitting in a relaxed position, with your shoulders back and down. Try your best not to slouch.
  • Take opportunities throughout the day to rest and incorporate exercise into your routine.
  • If your job requires you to sit for most of the day, take regular stretch breaks to prevent your muscles from getting too tight.

 

Can you treat muscle knots at home?

While we recommend seeking the advice of a spine, muscle, and nervous system expert, there are some cases where you can massage the sore muscles yourself. Try following this simple technique: 4

  • Locate the knot in your muscle and, using your fingers, gently massage it out.
  • Focus on loosening the tight muscle by pressing down firmly and making small circles.
  • If you’re finding it difficult to reach the muscle knot in your back, neck, or shoulders, you can try using a tennis ball or foam roller to apply pressure to the knot. Slowly and gently move back and forth to relieve the tension.

Muscle knots in any area of the body are painful and frustrating. Now that you know what they are, what causes them, and how to treat them, we hope you’ll find relief and get back to enjoying your everyday activities.

If you have a persistent muscle knot that is interfering with your quality of life, make an appointment with a chiropractor today.