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  • Writer's pictureDr. Jill King

4 Ways to Relieve Muscle Knots




What Are Muscle Knots?

Muscle 'knots', also called trigger points and myofascial pain syndrome, are terms that are used to describe the experience of sensitive spots in soft tissue that are commonly associated with injury, or in people with persistent neck/back pain.


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.”


The most common muscle knot relations are:

  • Joint issues

  • Emotional or physical stress

  • Heavy lifting

  • Poor posture

  • Repetitive activities


How to Feel Better


1. Hot and Cold Therapy


Muscle knots that are caused by a specific injury — such as lifting a box that is too heavy — should initially be treated with cold. Apply a cold pack to the knotted muscle for 15 to 20 minutes, three to five times each day for the first two to three days after injury. Use a frozen bag of vegetables or a commercial ice pack. Alternatively, make your own cold pack — pour 3 cups of water and 1 cup of rubbing alcohol into a plastic bag. Squeeze out the excess air and freeze the bag overnight. The cold pack technique will decrease blood flow to the area, thus reducing inflammation and pain. If the knotted muscle is also damaged, cold will decrease bleeding in the injured area. After two to three days, switch to heat application.


Heat application is an effective technique for reducing muscle knots in your back. Heat increases blood flow to the knotted muscle, which will help it relax. Apply heat with a heating pad or a wet towel warmed for 30 seconds in the microwave or stand in a hot shower. Heat your back for 15 to 20 minutes, three to five times each day until your muscle is no longer knotted. Use caution — a hot pack or shower that is too hot can burn your skin. Place a dry towel between your skin and the heat source or lower the temperature of the water if it is too hot.


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.


4. Stretch


Gentle stretching can reduce knots in your back muscles. To stretch your lower back, lie on your back on the floor or another firm surface. Bend one knee and bring it toward your chest. Gently pull your knee closer to your chest with your hands until you feel your tight muscles stretch. Do not stretch to the point of pain — this can damage your muscles. Hold this stretch for 20 to 30 seconds and repeat on the opposite leg.


Stretch three times in a row, three to five times each day.

Stretch your upper back by interlocking your hands in front of your body. Straighten your elbows and arch your back until you feel a stretch around your shoulders. Hold the position for 20 to 30 seconds and repeat three times in a row, three to five times each day.


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.



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