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What is a muscle knot, why does it happen and what you can do to relieve it

Updated: Jul 22, 2020

Muscles knots are hard, sensitive areas of muscles that tighten and contract even when the muscle is at rest. These tense muscle fibers can cause pain in other parts of the body when touched. They’re also known as trigger points.

Muscle knots can be caused by:

  • a busy lifestyle

  • stress and tension

  • overusing or injuring your muscles

  • extreme training for any kind of sport

  • poor posture

  • prolonged bed rest or sitting without stretching

Dehydration, unhealthy eating habits, 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. 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 cause symptoms in areas outside of the muscles, including:

  • headaches

  • toothaches

  • earaches

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

You can use massage 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.

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.

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.

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.

When to seek help Untreated muscle knots can cause chronic pain and lead to other health issues. See your health care provider if you’ve taken measures to relieve your muscle pain, but it persists. You should also call your doctor if pain becomes severe and is interfering with your daily life and well-being. It’s possible that what seems like a muscle knot could be something else, such as a swollen lymph node. Usually there will be other symptoms that accompany a swollen lymph node, such as a cold, cough, or infection. Check with a doctor, physical therapist, or osteopath if you want to make sure it’s a muscle knot and not something else. They can determine possible causes for the pain.

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