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Best Ways To Treat Muscle Knots

Nina J. Saturday, April 4, 2020

What are Muscle Knots?

Muscle knots (formally called myofascial trigger points) are muscles in a state of constant contraction. These hardened bumps are actually the result of your body protecting itself from further injury.

When muscles are strained, overworked or injured muscles around them tighten to prevent more damage and encourage healing processes. So, a muscle knot is really a muscle tightening (or contracting) itself to form a hardened shell as a protective measure. The muscle is contracted by the same brain impulse you use to move a limb. In other words they are really like a shell to guard an injury.

A muscle knot, it is not a voluntary action however. You cannot loosen the knot yourself just by focusing and releasing the contraction. It's completely involuntary, and it produces several adverse results like limited range of motion, serious discomfort, pain and tightness. You can treat muscle knots however and reduce the amount of time you suffer.

Muscles knots are hard, sensitive areas of muscles that tighten and contract even when the muscle is at rest. Muscle knots are small, bump-like areas of muscle that can be painful to the touch. The medical term for muscle knots is myofascial trigger points. These knots occur when muscle fibers or the bands of tissue called fascia underneath them tense and tighten.

Muscle knots can be caused by dehydration, unhealthy eating habits, and stress and anxiety may also contribute to muscle knots. Muscle knots can occur anywhere in the body, but they're usually found in your back, shoulders, and neck. They often show up in your gluteal muscles, too. Muscles knots can cause aching sensations and pain in your muscles and joints.

What Causes Muscle Knots?

Muscle knots are caused by several things including pain in muscle tissue, overuse, strains and even trauma. When a muscle is overworked or injured, it can tighten up. Muscles around the painful area will also bunch up, tightening into a knot to protect the area from further injury.

Muscle knots can be also caused by:

  • A sedentary lifestyle without stretching – a person who spends a significant amount of time sitting at work may develop muscle knots due to staying in the same position for prolonged periods.
  • Overusing or injuring your muscles
  • Poor posture
  • Stress and tension
  • Injuries related to lifting and repetitive motion
  • Prolonged bed rest

Muscles knots can cause aching sensations and pain in your muscles and joints. When you touch a muscle knot, it may feel swollen, tense, or bumpy. It could also feel tight and contracted, even when you’re trying to relax, and they’re often sensitive to the touch. The affected area may even become inflamed or swollen.

Muscle knots can develop almost anywhere on the body where muscle or fascia is present. Trigger points often cause what doctors call referred pain. When a person presses on the trigger point, the pain spreads from the trigger point to nearby muscles.

Sometimes, the muscle may twitch or move when the knot is pressed. This symptom helps differentiate a trigger point from a tender point. A tender point is an area that hurts only in the pressed location, and the pain does not radiate to other muscles.

Places where muscle knots commonly occur include:

  • Calf muscles
  • Neck
  • Shoulders
  • Lower back
  • Shins

Muscle knots can cause symptoms in areas outside of the muscles, including:

  • Jaw pain
  • Lower back pain
  • Headaches
  • Toothaches
  • Ringing in the ears

You may also experience stress, anxiety, and depression, and have difficulty sleeping.

The Best Ways to Get Rid of Muscle Knots:

  • Rest
  • Physical Therapy
  • Muscle Massage
  • Heat and Cold pack applications
  • Stretching and range of motion exercises
  • Strengthening routines to encourage body health and core strength
  • Muscle rub
  • Trigger point pressure release
  • Massage Therapy

What is the best type of massage for muscle knots?

Massage Therapy is a very good way to treat muscle knots. Massage therapy increases circulation and improves blood flow. That can improve muscle function and help loosen up your muscles. This helps to relieve pain and stiffness.

There are several types of massage. The type you’ll benefit from most will depend on the severity of your muscle knots and your personal preference. You may need to try several different types of massage before you find a type that you like.

Self-Massage: In some cases, you can massage the sore muscles yourself. Locate the muscle knot and use your fingers to gently massage it.

While massaging, focus on trying to loosen up the tight muscle fibers and relieve tension. Press firmly into the affected area and make small circles with your fingers. You can also place a tennis ball between your back and the floor or a wall, and roll back and forth on the ball to apply more pressure to the knot. Experiment by slowly and gently moving the ball to apply pressure to points of tension. You can use a foam roller in much the same way.

Soft Tissue Massage: Soft tissue massage is a technique that as you will be able to guess is less intrusive than deep tissue massage. Instead of focusing on slow and pressured movements to affect the deep layers, soft tissue massage focuses on working with a range of depths, pressures and durations.

As a massage therapy it will aim to work with your muscles, tendons, ligaments and will be very similar to the techniques used in Deep Tissue Massage.

It is a useful technique to help relax muscles, increase endorphins, reduce muscle tension and improve blood circulation.

Swedish Massage: This gentle massage technique will be suitable for you if have a lot of tension or are sensitive to touch. Swedish massage uses long strokes, kneading, and deep circular movements. Vibration and tapping are also used to aid in relaxation.

Deep Tissue Massage: This type of massage uses forceful strokes to release chronic muscle tension. It targets the deeper layers of muscle and connective tissue. It’s often used to treat muscle damage from injuries.

Sports Massage Therapy: This massage technique is geared especially toward athletes. It can be used to prevent or treat injuries.

Keep in mind that one session isn’t usually enough to heal you completely. You’ll likely need to have several frequent sessions. Once you see improvements you can space out your sessions.

Muscle knots aren’t always avoidable, but you can take steps to reduce your risk. Make sure you’re physically active on a daily basis. Take time to focus on flexibility and relaxation. Discover which lifestyle changes and treatment plans work best for you.

Excellent ways to prevent muscle knots:

  • Always practice good posture in your daily life. Focus on sitting relaxed, with your shoulders back and down, and avoid slouching while sitting.
  • Get plenty of rest and adequate exercise.
  • Warm up and cool down when exercising, and don’t overexert yourself. Lifting too heavy or running too fast can cause injuries that may also lead to muscle knots.
  • Don’t sit for long periods of time. Take a break, and get up and move at least once every hour of extended sitting.
  • Do simple stretches throughout the day to keep your muscles from getting tight. You can even do exercises while sitting at a desk or watching television. Bring an awareness of the alignment of your body while going about physical activities.
  • Maintain a healthy diet that includes calcium, potassium, and magnesium, and drink plenty of water. Replace processed foods with fresh, whole foods.
  • Consider getting regular massages to help you to relax, gain flexibility, and keep your muscles healthy.

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