How do you get rid of muscle knots? What are muscle knots? Why do you get muscle knots? 10 simple things you can do right now at home to eliminate your muscle knots. Learn all about this common condition in your neck, shoulders, and back from the doctor of physical therapy at Tone-and-Tighten.com.
HOW TO GET RID OF MUSCLE KNOTS
- Heat – promotes blood flow and relaxation.
- Stretching – promotes tissue elongation and relaxation in the knotted area.
- Exercise – fatigues the area and helps the muscle to “reset”.
- Postural corrections – stretching and strengthening exercises to correct posture and eliminate the strain causing the knot in the first place.
- Massage – promotes relaxation and blood flow into an area.
- Trigger point therapy – causes the muscle knot to “release”.
Keep reading below for detailed descriptions and video demonstrations of each of these points.
7 Days of awesome at-home workouts and delicious dinner recipes – delivered daily right to your inbox!
Sign up for our all-now “7-Day Home Workout and Recipe Plan” by clicking RIGHT HERE!
WHAT ARE MUSCLE KNOTS?
Muscle knots are hard, sensitive areas in our muscles where the muscle is in a shortened, contracted state even when the muscle is supposed to be at rest.
These muscle knots are commonly found in our neck, shoulders, upper back, and hips and are a common condition that affect millions of people everyday.
These tight areas of contracted muscle are also referred to as “trigger points” as oftentimes touching these areas can “trigger” pain in different location in your body.
Muscle knots can cause a painful, aching sensation in the muscle that can refer to nearby joints as well. When you touch it it feels tight and contracted despite your efforts to relax that area.
Muscle knots can also feel swollen and inflamed and can contribute to other associated problems including headaches, stress, anxiety, and difficulty sleeping.
Muscle knots are a common condition that I see in patients in my physical therapy clinic all the time. Fortunately there’s a lot that you can do about them to treat them safely and effectively right at home!
Today I wanted to share some of my favorite tips, tricks, and exercises to help you get rid of muscle knots in your neck, shoulders, and upper back. I’ve also included video demonstration of each of these methods to ensure you do them correctly and maximize your outcomes.
WHY DO YOU GET MUSCLE KNOTS?
Muscle knots are most often caused by:
- Poor posture
- Muscle weakness
- A sedentary lifestyle/Lack of activity
Other contributing factors can include stress/anxiety, unhealthy eating habits, and dehydration. For the purposes of this post, let’s briefly discuss these three common causes in more detail:
Poor posture: In “normal” posture, if I were to look at you from the side your ear should be right over the tip of your shoulder. In this position gravity holds your head straight on top of your shoulder with very little muscle activity. With poor posture, your head comes forward in front of your shoulder and now your muscles have to be active to hold it in that position. This can cause muscle knots in your neck and shoulders.
Muscle Weakness: Weak muscles are more susceptible to getting “stuck” in this shortened, contracted position than strong, healthy muscles. Weak muscles are prone to developing knots, especially when combined with poor posture and a sedentary lifestyle.
Sedentary Lifestyle / Lack of Activity: When you get adequate, regular activity your muscles contract and relax normally. When we are sedentary and our muscles don’t contract and relax regularly this can predispose us to developing irregular muscle knots.
HOW TO TREAT MUSCLE KNOTS
Keep in mind that treating your muscle knots can take some time. You didn’t develop them overnight; chances are they’re not going to go away overnight, also.
To treat your muscle knots you’ll need to break up the knotted tissue and calm down the inflamed nerves.
Below you’ll find a list of the most effective methods to alleviate your muscle knots at home.
Be sure to watch this video for demonstration and detailed instruction on each one of these interventions:
1. Heat: applying heat to an area causes capillaries to dilate, thereby promoting more blood flow into that area. Increasing blood flow to a muscle can be an effective means of getting knots to release.
2. Stretching: as mentioned previously, muscle knots are areas of the muscle that fail to fully relax/elongate. Stretching the muscles in which these knots lie is an effective way to stretch out the knot, decrease tension, and decrease your pain.
The two stretches I like best are an “upper trapezius stretch” and a “levator scapula stretch”. See the video above for demonstration on how these are to be performed.
3. Muscle Activation: working muscles demand increased blood flow to effectively contract and relax. By working the muscle in which your knot lies you can increase blood flow into that spot and promote relaxation. Contracting these muscles is also a good way to fatigue this area and get the muscle knot to release.
Shrugs with shoulder blade retraction are the best exercise to eliminate knots in the upper back and neck; check out the video above to see how these are performed.
4. Postural Correction: poor posture is one of the primary contributing factors predisposing one to muscle knots. Taking actions to correct poor posture and promote improved alignment can significantly improve muscle tension and pain.
Chin tucks are my go-to exercise to get your head back over your shoulders where it belongs. Combine it with some foam roller stretching and you’ll start to notice an improvement. Again, these are demonstrated in the video above.
5. Postural Strengthening and Muscle Activation: Stretching the tight structures through the front of the chest and shoulders while strengthening the weak muscles of your upper back in between your shoulder blades is key in improving posture and decreasing propensity for muscle knots.
“Wall angels” and “wall slides” are my two favorite exercises to improve postural strength and decrease your muscle knot pain and symptoms.
6. Massage: massaging muscle tissue is a great way to decrease tension and “break up” those chronic muscle contractions. We decrease tension and promote blood flow into an area when we massage it, so massage is great at alleviating muscle knots and associated pain.
7. Trigger Point Release: Trigger point release is applying a deep pressure directly on a muscle knot and maintaining that pressure 15-60 seconds. The theory here is that we actually compress capillaries and “starve” the knot of blood and oxygen. After the muscle fibers “release” we then release our pressure and blood/oxygen comes rushing back into the spot, thereby maintaining the relaxed state.
You can perform a “self trigger point release” at home using a tennis ball; another favorite tool of mine is a “Theracane“. Both are great at applying point pressure right over your trigger points. See instructions in the video above.
Muscle knots can be a debilitating condition that affects every facet of your life. The fortunate part is you don’t have to live with them and there’s a lot you can do to alleviate this pain/tension. Following the suggestions outlined in this video have helped my patients for years and I know they can help you, too!
Looking for more details in how to improve your neck and shoulders posture? This video is what you need:
Keeping your back strong is key in treating and preventing muscle knots from occurring. These are some of my favorite workouts you can do at home to keep your back healthy and strong:
Make it happen,