Muscle knots are hardened and tight muscles which feel tense, even when you’re not activating them with exercise. They accumulate in places liable to hold tension, like shoulder blades. A knot is an appropriate name, as muscle knots can feel like a rope under the skin when probed with fingertips.
What are muscle knots?
Normal muscles contract when in use and relax afterwards. Sometimes, they don’t relax post-contraction, and that’s when a knot’s formed.1 Knots are a tight band of muscle located in a trigger point.
Causes of muscle knots
Common causes of muscle knots include:
Not drinking enough water can contribute to the development of muscle knots, as can eating sugary or high-fat foods which dehydrate you.2 Be advised that caffeine and alcohol are also dehydrating.
Muscles become overstretched through inactivity and stiffen so they cannot stretch further, causing muscle knots.3
Repeated movements which make a muscle tense for a prolonged period can cause knots.4
Putting additional pressure on the spine by slouching contributes to knots developing in the back, shoulders, and neck.5
How to relieve knots in your back
Most physiotherapists advise massage as the best method of massage to reduce tension in your back.6 If you intend to massage at home, apply vigorous pressure to the affected area with your hands. Locate the knot and work the tightened area with your fingers until it becomes loosened. If you don’t want to use your hand, use a foam roller or ball to relieve pressure.
If that fails to work, consult your GP or a private physiotherapist. The GP may recommend injections to loosen muscles.7 Physiotherapists may recommend stretches or suggest acupuncture treatments to relieve discomfort.8
How to prevent muscle knots from developing
The best thing you can do to prevent muscle knots developing is work on your posture. Exercises like yoga can help correct posture and improve spine health, reducing the likelihood you’ll suffer from knots.9
Here are other ways you can prevent muscle knots developing, also working on postural correction:
Maintain an active lifestyle by working out, walking, and completing chores energetically to reduce your likelihood of developing knots.
Rest when sore
If you’re sore after a sweat-session, don’t push yourself back on the mat or to the gym just yet. Allow your muscles to rest, so they don’t tighten and develop knots from overuse.
Enjoy lots of delicious, water-rich vegetables which help hydrate you, instead of indulging in dehydrating, high-fat, high-sugar foods.
Regularly stretch while sat still and incorporate stretching into your daily routine to encourage good posture and keep muscles supple.
Last updated: 6 April 2021