Have you heard the term ‘muscle knot’ and wondered what it means? Can your muscles really get into a knot and, if so, how do these knots form?
Let’s look at what they are, how they form and what you can do about it.
What is a muscle knot and how do you know whether you have one?
What is a muscle knot?
A muscle knot is a hard, tender area of muscle that tightens and contracts to cause pain. It’s not actually a knot of muscle fibers but an area of the muscle that has gone into spasm. This contraction can occur even when the muscle is at rest. When touched, the knot may cause pain, not just in the knot itself, but in other parts of the body. You may also have heard them referred to as trigger points.
What causes a muscle knot?
A muscle knot is often caused by overusing or injuring your muscle. However, surprisingly, you can also get a knot from poor posture and a sedentary lifestyle. It’s also thought that other factors such as unhealthy eating habits, dehydration, anxiety, and stress may also contribute to the formation of knots.
Where do muscle knots form?
Muscle knots form in the muscle and can occur anywhere in the body. However, it’s most common to find them in the muscles around the neck, shoulder, and back as well as in the gluteal muscles.
What does a muscle knot feel like?
If you have a muscle knot, you’re likely to feel pain spasms and aching sensations in the affected muscle and perhaps the joint too. The knot will feel swollen or bumpy and there will be tension in the general area. It may still feel tight and sensitive to touch even when you are relaxing, and the area may become swollen and tender.
However, the symptoms may not be purely concentrated on the muscle itself. You can also experience headaches, toothache, and earache because of a muscle knot.
How do you treat a muscle knot?
There’s no quick fix for muscle knots. It can take time to break up the knot and reduce the inflammation of the affected nerves. However, there are many things that you can do to find some relief and work on restoring the muscle tissue.
As with most muscle injuries, rest can prove to be very beneficial. So, if you know that the knot has been caused by a specific activity, it’s best to stop that activity for a short while, especially if it’s causing you pain.
Performing gentle stretches will help to release any tension in your muscles. However, you must take this slowly and never force the stretches. Listen to your body and stop if the stretches feel painful. It’s helpful to hold the stretch for a minimum of 30 seconds.
If the knots are in your neck and shoulder area, swimming and other exercises that involve working the muscles in that area may help to ease out the knots and relieve the pain. As you exercise, the blood supply to the area will be increased which will help to repair the damaged fibers.
Hot and cold therapy
Hot and cold therapy is often recommended to relieve the pain and inflammation caused by muscle knots. Using cold compresses will help to reduce the swelling by constricting the blood vessels, while hot compresses will help to relax and loosen tense muscles. Applying heat will also increase the blood supply to the muscles thus promoting repair.
Use a muscle rub
There’s a reason why athletes keep a jar or tin of muscle rub or deep heat in their kitbags. Muscle rubs usually contain menthol or camphor – it’s what gives the rub its distinctive smell. The heat from the menthol or camphor helps to soften and relax knots in muscles. Simply rub or massage it into the affected area as directed. We suggest that you do a patch test first to ensure that you don’t suffer a bad reaction to the active ingredient.
Massage by a therapist
Massage is often used to treat and relieve the discomfort of knots in the muscles. The massage action will improve blood flow to the areas that will help to repair, relax and loosen up the knotted fibers. With a deep tissue massage, the therapist will target the deeper layers of muscle and connective tissue. While you’ll probably feel some relief after one session, you’ll probably need a course of treatments to remove the knot completely.
Depending on where the muscle knot is, you may be able to massage the affected area yourself. Use your fingers to gently loosen the muscle fibers by pressing firmly into the muscles while making small circles. You can also use massage balls (with or without spikes) that you place between the affected muscle and either the floor or a wall. Then simply roll backwards and forwards to apply pressure. For larger areas, you may want to use a foam roller.
Using a massage gun is one way to treat muscle knots at home that is becoming increasingly popular. Massage guns like the REBELTMPRO provide a deep tissue massage with a pounding or striking action. This percussive therapy sends forces deep into the muscle increasing the flow of blood, reducing inflammation, and breaking up the adhesions or knots.
When to seek professional help
If you don’t do anything about your muscle knots, they can cause chronic pain and may, in time, lead to other kinds of health issues. Therefore, if you’ve tried some of the treatments above without success, it’s best to consult with your health care provider, particularly if it’s affecting your day-to-day activities and wellbeing.
How can you stop muscle knots from forming?
It is possible to stop muscle knots from forming by following the advice below.
- Become more aware of your posture, especially if you spend long periods sitting at a desk or working on a computer.
- Don’t sit for long periods. Set an alarm to remind you to get up and walk about for a few minutes every hour.
- If you don’t exercise regularly, now’s the time to start!
- Don’t forget to prepare your body for exercise by warming up and perhaps preparing your muscles for action with a massage gun. And don’t forget to cool down afterwards too.
- Don’t push yourself too hard. Lifting weights that are too heavy or running too fast without a proper warm-up are likely to lead to muscles tears and knots.
- Get plenty of rest, especially if you exercise regularly. It’s important to give your body and muscles time to recover.
- Incorporate a stretching routine into your day. It doesn’t have to be for long; just a couple of minutes a day can make all the difference.
- Ensure you eat a varied diet that includes foods containing magnesium, potassium, and calcium.
- Always drink plenty of water throughout the day.
- Schedule in regular massages. These could be with a therapist, or you could set aside time daily for self-massage or to use a massage gun.
There’s no way you can completely avoid muscle knots, but you can take some steps to reduce the chances of them occurring. Being physically active every day, incorporating stretching into your routine, using a massage gun and getting plenty of rest will all help to keep your muscles in tip top condition.