Ouch! How To Take Care Of Those Pesky Muscle Knots

We all get random aches and pains from time to time. It’s normal – or is it? Believe it or not, you don’t have to put up with muscle discomfort. In this guide, you’ll pick up a few tips that will straighten out those annoying muscle knots!

What are muscle knots?

To understand what a muscle knot is, you first need to understand muscle structure. A muscle is comprised of fibers that bend and flex in multiple directions. A healthy muscle moves easily. However, if a muscle becomes injured or remains stationary for too long, the fibers can become stuck together. The resulting clump of fibers is known as a “muscle knot.”

Muscle knots are sometimes called “trigger points.” This is because they trigger pain when stimulated. Knots can range from a couple of millimeters to an inch or so in diameter.

Why do muscle knots hurt?

The tangled fibers impede healthy oxygen flow to the area, which causes pain. Muscle knots feel hard and stiff to the touch. They can tense and contract involuntarily, resulting in muscle twitches. Knots can become inflamed and swollen.

Not only are the knots sensitive, but they can also cause pain elsewhere in the body. This is because when a knot tenses, it causes other muscles to tighten. For example, you might experience headaches or toothaches if you have a knot in your neck or back. Some people find that they find it hard to sleep with a muscle knot.

Muscle knots in the back, neck, and shoulders

Poor posture is a common cause of muscle knots. If you slump when you sit and stand, you are at risk of muscle pain. Along with the back, the neck and shoulders are the most common places for muscle knots. They are especially likely to appear on the back and sides of your neck.

Knots in the arms and legs are less common but no less annoying. Physical therapist Tim Charleston advises that they can develop anywhere on the body.

How to relieve muscle knots

According to physical therapist Nate Wood, an untreated muscle knot can last for weeks or even months. Luckily, you can shorten healing time with suitable treatment. The first rule is to stop doing any activities that make your pain worse.

However, this doesn’t mean you should remain stationary, as this can make your muscles stiffer. Try to stretch regularly to aid muscle flexibility and promote blood flow. Stretch all your major muscle groups every day, holding each pose for around 30 seconds.

In this video, you can learn more about how to stretch your muscles safely:

Along with resting and stretching, there are several other treatments to try. Remember that you will need to treat the knots over weeks rather than hours or days. Have patience!

1. Massage

Massage is a great remedy for muscle knots. Almost any form of massage therapy will loosen the muscle and relieve the knot. You can also massage knots away yourself, as long as you can reach the affected area. Using your thumb and forefinger, rub the knot using firm circular motions.

Read more: Top 10 Best Back Massagers

2. Hot and cold therapy

Both heat and cold can reduce symptoms. Apply an ice pack for 10 minutes twice a day to soothe inflamed muscles. Never apply ice to bare skin – always use an insulated pack. If you need to improvise, wrap a bag of frozen vegetables in a cloth as a makeshift ice pack. Use cold therapy for the first three days following injury.

9 Of The Best Warming Massage Oils For Muscle Recovery

After three days, switch to heat therapy. Use a heated pad or hot water bottle. This will improve circulation to the area and loosen knotted fibers. From the fourth day onwards, alternating between hot and cold therapy. Apply heat for four minutes, then cold for one minute, and so forth for 15-20 minutes. Repeat a couple of times per day.

3. Muscle Rubs

Using a rub on the affected area can give quick relief. However, they are only quick fixes and should be used alongside massage. Depending on the ingredients used, rubs can either open or constrict the blood vessels. “Cold” rubs are good for soothing inflammation, whereas “heat” rubs encourage blood flow.

Some people are allergic to muscle rubs. Always do a patch test before applying a cream to a large area.

What if the knot doesn’t go away?

If you’ve tried these treatments and the knot is still causing you pain, it’s time to see a doctor. You might need physical therapy or require treatment for an underlying injury or illness.


Carmen is an entrepreneur and content marketer. In a former life, as a corporate business executive, she relied on yoga, reflexology and other alternative practices to fight stress, anxiety and find balance. She’s on a mission to build healthy habits for a balanced, healthy life, connecting body, mind and spirit.