What Are Muscle Knots?
Let’s first establish what a muscle knot is so you understand the reason behind the pain. Knots occur when muscles are constantly contracting. The body is trying to protect you against injuring your muscles, and this is what causes the hardened bump you feel in your back, for instance. Therefore, a muscle knot is actually a tightened muscle that serves as a protection measure against injuries.
Also, you should be aware that this is not something you can do voluntarily. Muscle knots just happen, and you cannot control them or intentionally cause one. Also, you cannot simply loosen the knot yourself if you’re trying to release the contraction. When the knot occurs, you will feel a lot of discomfort, tightness, and pain.
You can expect muscle knots in any part of your body, so don’t be surprised if they occur in a more unusual place, like your jaw for example. In general, though, they have a tendency to form in your back, neck, or shoulders. Gluteal muscles can have knots as well.
What Causes Muscle Knots?
Now that we determined what a muscle knot is, here comes the real question: what causes a muscle knot?
Well, there are various factors that could lead to the formation of a muscle knot. More often than not, the issue is the direct result of physical activities, especially repetitive ones. Lifting something very heavy could result in a muscle knot, for example.
With that in mind, here are some causes for muscle knots:
- Bad posture
- Unhealthy diet
- Joint issues
- Sleep disturbances
- Poor ergonomics
- Psychological stress
What Symptoms Accompany Muscle Knots?
It’s important to know how to detect a muscle knot and eliminate other issues causing your severe pains.
Of course, the main symptom you are going to experience when dealing with a muscle knot is pain. You’ll usually sense a swollen area where the knot has occurred or a bumpy one. This area will be pretty painful.
Aside from the pain you feel in that particular area, the knot may also send pain to different areas depending on where it’s located. For example, if you have a neck muscle knot, then it can send pain into the skull base. This will cause a tension headache as a result.
What Increases the Risk of Muscle Knots?
When it comes to what causes muscle knots, you should be aware that some additional aspects increase their occurrence. Some people live happily without having any muscle knot, but that’s a very rare scenario. These people are in a small number.
Most individuals with chronic pain have trigger points, respectively 97% of them. Meanwhile, 100% of those with neck pain have trigger points too.
Some of the things that put you at more risk of developing muscle knots include disease, sedentarism, aging, and stress.
Sitting for long periods increases the risk of developing muscle knots.
Can You Prevent Muscle Knots?
Let’s be honest, nobody wants to go through the trouble and pain caused by muscle knots. Most people would rather prevent one than have to treat one, so knowing some preventive measures may decrease the risk of dealing with this problem.
There are indeed a few things that you can do to make muscle knots less likely to happen.
When you have the time, you should perform some stretches throughout the day. This will make sure that your muscles don’t end up tightening, and no knots will ruin your mood as a result.
The cool thing is that you can stretch anywhere. The more you make sure to stretch regularly, the less likely you are to experience a stubborn knot.
You may love sitting all the time but sitting for long periods increases the risk of developing knots, among other things. Even if you’re the type who likes sitting down in front of the computer or reading a book instead of going for walks or a run, doing some sort of exercise is important. Therefore, make sure to get up now and then and move. It could be a simple walk, but your muscles will surely thank you.
Your posture is important. Even if your mom might have been a little stressful always telling you to stand straight, she was on to something. A good posture will keep your back healthy, but it will also prevent knots. Make sure to sit relaxed with your shoulders back and down. Also, avoid slouching while you sit.
A healthy diet will also contribute to muscle knot prevention, so don’t overestimate the power of fruits and vegetables. Healthy nutrition contributes to muscle strength. So, you should include potassium, calcium, and magnesium in your diet. At the same time, whole foods should replace processed foods in your life. Lastly, don’t forget to drink an adequate amount of water. Staying hydrated decreases the risk of knots as well.
Stretching is a great way to relieve an annoying muscle knot.
How Can You Treat Muscle Knots?
Knowing what causes muscle knots will also let you know how to treat your issue. How exactly do you treat it, though? Here are some ways to get rid of an annoying muscle knot:
Stretching can prevent, but also treat muscle knots. It releases some of the tension that your body is experiencing. The stretches will elongate the muscles and thus help get rid of tension. But you need to perform gentle stretches. That being said, don’t be too hard on yourself trying to force stretches that are too uncomfortable. You should be gentle with your body.
Also, you should consider holding the stretch for at least 30 seconds, and when you release it, you should do it slowly. This will make sure you don’t injure yourself in the process.
Yoga, for instance, is a useful way to relieve muscle knots and prevent them from happening in the future, and not just due to its focus on stretching. Yoga builds muscle, and by doing that, trigger points will not occur again. Basically, you have trigger points due to improper muscle use. Yoga allows you to strengthen your muscles and as a result, knots will be prevented in the future, while existing ones will be relieved.
Have you been working out at the gym, or simply had to lift something very heavy? If a muscle knot occurred as a result of a certain activity, you should take a break from whatever you’re doing and rest. This way, your muscle knots will allow tension to go away after a while. Give yourself as much time as necessary to relax.
Keep in mind that this means you may have to lie down in a nice, comfortable position for a longer time, or sleep for longer than you’re used to. Use whatever you have available to make yourself as comfortable as possible – these imply pillows, even massage pillows, comfy mattresses, and others.
Muscle rubs can also be a true blessing. You can apply some to your affected area and massage it until it’s absorbed for some cooling relief. If the knot occurred in an area that is more difficult to reach, then you may need someone to help you apply the muscle rub. Just make sure you perform a patch test before using it so you can figure out if you experience any allergic reaction to it.
Exercising is a great way to relieve an annoying muscle knot. Aerobic exercise is especially useful in this regard. Make sure to try swimming or doing jumping jacks or any type of arm movement for your shoulder and neck knots. Your body will thank you.
If the problem persists, you can also try some physical therapy by going to a specialized therapist. They will allow you to discover the cause for your knots and will help treat them. Not only that, but the therapist can also teach you some techniques for prevention.
You may find relief massaging the affected area while trying to get the knot absorbed.
Below is a Pinterest friendly photo…. so you can pin it to your MB Zen Board!!
The Bottom Line
If you came here wondering what causes muscle knots, we hope that now you have the answer. Make sure to do your best to prevent them, and if you’re still dealing with knots now and then, use some of the treatments above to ease the problem and eliminate the pain.
Co-founder of MB Zen, digital nomad and yogini. Trying to beat down stress and achieve peace of mind through the daily practice of Yoga. After a while in yoga, I embraced it wholy, and it changed my lifestyle upside down. Now I want to give back , helping others on their journey.