Muscle knots are a common source of back pain. “Myofascial trigger point” is the medical term for them, which occur when the fibers of the muscle tense up and tighten. These feel like small, painful bumps that can cause pain and affect the range of motion. Muscle knots can be active or latent. With active ones, the bump is painful even without being touched. Latent muscle knots are painful only when touched. With both active and latent muscle knots, it’s important to treat them early.
What Causes Them?
Muscle knots can develop nearly anywhere there is a muscle on the body but are most common in the back, neck, shoulders, and calf muscles. They feel like hard lumps in the muscle, and often when pressed, the pain radiates to other muscles.
There are a variety of causes including:
- Tension and stress
- Poor posture
- Injuries from repetitive motion
- Injuries from lifting
- A sedentary lifestyle
- Lack of stretching
Symptoms and Relief
Muscle knots can cause pain and aches in the muscles and joints. When you touch a muscle knot, it might feel swollen and tense—even when you try to relax. Other symptoms can include:
- Stress and anxiety
- Difficulty sleeping
Muscle knot treatments can vary and take time. In order to get rid of them, the knotted tissue needs to be broken up so the irritated nerves can calm. If you experience muscle knots, you should consult with your doctor to determine the best treatment for you. Recommended treatments might include:
- Resting. Some activities can exacerbate and cause increased pain and discomfort to muscle knots.
- Stretching. Stretching can help to release tension and elongate the muscle. Make sure to stretch gently for at least 30 seconds and release the stretch slowly. Do not force your body into positions that cause pain.
- Exercise. Aerobic exercise stretches the muscles and increases their blood supply. Increased blood supply helps to filter out toxins and provide some muscle knot relief. Again, be gentle with yourself and avoid activities that cause pain.
- Cold therapy. A cold compress constricts blood vessels, which reduces inflammation. Apply a cold compress for 10 minutes and then remove it for at least 15 minutes.
- Hot therapy. A heating pad can relax and loosen muscles. Heat increases blood flow, which can also help with healing. Hot and cold treatments can be used together or separately.
- Massage therapy. Massage therapy increases circulation and improves overall blood flow. Usually, you will need several sessions before healing completely.
When left untreated, they can result in chronic pain and lead to other health problems. If the pain is severe and interferes with your daily life, you should see a doctor right away. Check with your doctor to put together a treatment plan that is safe and efficient for you. Although muscle knots aren’t always preventable, staying physically active, stretching, relaxing, and staying hydrated are all small steps that you can take to reduce your risk of muscle knots.