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Recovery

How to Untie Painful Muscle Knots

Updated 
September 28, 2020
Written by 
Jai

Trigger points are so relaxing… Knot!

Muscle knots are stiff, painful areas of muscles that contract and tighten even when at rest. They’re also known as trigger points.

They’re different from the kind of muscle soreness that shows up a day or two after you exercise. These tense muscle fibers can cause aches in other parts of the body when touched.

Where do you usually get muscle knots?

You can get a muscle knot anywhere you have a muscle, but they are more common in certain areas of the body such as:

The Glutes – 

Admirals Gluteus Minimus, Medius, and Maximus can definitely knot up, and even at the most unexpected times. This usually happens when you’re sitting in front of your desk for a long time or going on a long bike ride.


Lower back – 

 

The erector spinae sandwiching your spine on either side and latissimus dorsi on your sides can easily knot up - again - when you’re in a sitting position for hours. 


Neck – 

A sneaky knot in the muscles at the bottom of your skull, also called the semispinalis capitis, may also result in migraines and exhaustion.


Shoulder blades/upper back


Your trapezius muscle is huge, and it covers your neck and shoulder blades. It can get knotted and cause back pain. 


What is causing muscle knots?

Overusing your muscles - The first thing we need to understand about muscle overuse is the injuries it leads to. Injuries caused by muscle overuse are referred to as trauma injuries. 

Injuries that are caused by overusing the muscles differ a lot in scope but are put into two categories: macrotrauma (the big ones) and microtrauma (the small ones). Generally, microtrauma injuries happen as a result of overusing the muscles. Macrotrauma on the other hand, is caused by muscle overuse in conjunction with another health issue.

Microtrauma injuries include tendonitis, calluses, blisters, and so on. In some cases, overuse can lead to bruised and blackened toenails, and while this isn’t the most painful on the list of microtrauma injuries, it is one of the most off-putting. 

Shin splints and golfer’s elbow are more painful types, both of which can lead to lasting, or even permanent, side effects. Muscle knots on the other hand, are the most common.


A sedentary lifestyle - Yep, sitting all the time is officially the new smoking. A sedentary or inactive lifestyle is a way of life with plenty of sitting and lying down, with very little to no exercise.


Poor posture - You may, at one point,  have experienced aches and pains from sitting down for several hours. In fact, a CNN report had stated that sitting down can cause more harm to your health than smoking. But sitting is not the problem here. It’s how you’re sitting that causes pain and muscle knots.

Image Credit: PhysioRoom

Here’s an example: When you sit in front of your computer at work, you unconsciously move your body closer to the screen. Without knowing it, you tuck your tailbone and round your spine toward the computer. Your shoulders are hunched, and your head is tilted upwards. 

What this posture does is compress your neck, squeeze your lungs, and restricts breathing. This deprives the muscles of enough oxygen it needs, so tension occurs. The stress this creates on the muscles compound over time, which causes scar tissue formation.

                                                              

Dehydration - When your body loses enough fluid, it’s unable to maintain normal core temperatures. Your muscles work harder as your body gets hotter and you run the risk of your muscles seizing. Electrolyte changes within the body, such as lowered sodium and potassium levels, can also cause muscle cramping and knots.

You can also get dehydrated even during cold weather. If you don't drink water while exercising, your electrolyte levels go down. The symptoms may not be as obvious, but you run the same risks, regardless of the temperature.


Unhealthy eating habits - Not giving your body enough essential nutrients often leads to muscle aches and knots. Following a certain fad diet and popping pills, even if your doctor or “nutritionist” recommends it, doesn’t always help with muscle recovery. 


Anxiety - Feelings of anxiety, worry and fear impact the body and cause muscle knots. Muscle tension is also common among people suffering from panic disorder. Usually, muscles tense up during panic attacks and cause stiffness throughout the body, that lasts even after the panic attack has subsided.




Treating Muscle Knots

The truth is, treating muscle knots takes some time. You need to break up knotted tissues and soothe inflammation in the area. We’ve listed a few things that you can do for relief. 


Get a Massage Gun

You can self-massage to treat muscle knots using a handheld recovery device like HYDRAGUN to massage the problem area.

While massaging, focus on loosening up the tight muscles and remove tension. You could also ask someone to use the massage gun on your back to improve blood flow to loosen up tight muscles and relieve pain or stiffness.

Just keep in mind that a single massage gun session isn’t usually enough to heal you completely and you may need to use the device regularly to avoid muscle pains. Keep every session short - about 15 minutes is sufficient.


Give your body time to rest

This is the time when “training through the pain” won’t help. Give as much time as possible to muscle recovery, especially after intense workouts or training. 

When the muscles are overexerted, knots happen. If you can determine what’s causing it, take a break from that activity for a few days, if possible. That may mean stepping away from your computer or switching up your workout routine.

Rest allows the muscles to recover, particularly if accompanied by other treatments like self-therapy with a massage gun and stretching.



Do some light stretching

Light stretching exercises not only elongates your muscles but can help release tension in your body. Don’t force yourself into any crazy yoga positions that your body is not ready for.

Stretching is a fine complement to bodywork and dynamic exercise like resistance training, but it’s important that you do it properly, so you’re actually stretching the muscle that is “tight”. 


Keep moving

Not getting enough movement in your day also creates tension in the muscles that lead to knots. Remember, your body is built to move so regular exercise is important.

You need to move, stretch, and lift daily in order to keep your muscles flexible and healthy. 


Use hot pads and cold compress as needed

Using a combination of hot pads and cold compress helps relieve soreness and pain caused by muscle knots. A cold compress constricts the blood vessel and reduces swelling. Use for up to 10 minutes, remove for at least 15. You can repeat this until you begin to feel relief. 

Heat on the other hand relaxes stiff muscles, and relieves pain. Blood flow is increased where heat pads are used which then promotes recovery. If a heating pad isn’t available, soaking in a warm bath or taking a hot shower works too.



Final thoughts

Achieving muscle recovery for athletes and non-athletes is essentially the same. You need to have a good balance between staying active and getting enough rest. 

Focus on what your body is telling you and make appropriate lifestyle changes. Consult your doctor right away if you have a muscle knot that’s not going away and affecting your way of life. 


What are your thoughts on muscle knot relief?  Let us know by sounding off in the comments below. If you know someone who’d love this article too, share by clicking on one of the social media buttons on the right.


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