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What are Muscle Knots & How is it Treated?

What are Muscle Knots?

Muscle knots are the painful and hard areas of muscles that tighten and contract even when the muscles are at rest. They are extremely painful when touched and are also known as trigger points. It leads to a decrease in range of motion and autonomous dysfunction.

Muscle knots can occur anywhere in the body where muscle and fascia are present but are commonly seen occurring in calf muscles, middle back, neck, shins, lower back, and shoulders.

Causes and Risk Factors of Muscle Knots

Muscle knots are commonly caused due to sedentary lifestyle, overuse of muscles, muscle injury, or poor posture.

Dehydration, unhealthy eating habits, stress, and anxiety are the other causes.

There are several risk factors identified that are linked with muscle knots. These include:(1)

  • History of injury or joint problem
  • Obesity
  • Biomechanical imbalance
  • Difficulty in sleeping
  • Poor posture
  • Sedentary lifestyle

Poor posture alignment because of using a mobile phone, sleeping posture, and sitting posture may lead to the development of muscle knots.

Symptoms of Muscle Knots

Muscle knots are felt like small, tender lumps and nodules that are palpable when touched.(2) They exist deep in the muscles and a person may have to press hard to feel them.

The symptoms of muscle knots include:

  • A feeling of nerve pain
  • Decrease in range of motion
  • Deep pain
  • Numbness and tingling

It leads to referred pain, i.e. when the doctor presses a trigger point the pain spreads to the nearby muscles. This is a symptom that differentiates it from a tender point, an area that hurts only when touched on a specific area.

In tender points, the pain does not radiate to other muscles.

The trapezius muscle is the most common point where muscle knots occur, which is due to stress and poor posture.(3)

Muscle knots can also lead to the following symptoms:

How are Muscle Knots Treated?

Muscle knots treatment can take time. It involves breaking up the knotted tissue and calming the inflamed nerves. The treatment can be done in the following ways:


The body should be allowed to rest if having muscle knots. Taking a break from the activities causing knots or increasing the pain and discomfort can be helpful.

A good amount of time should be dedicated to relaxation and it may include sleeping longer than usual or lying in a comfortable position, using pillows that support the body.


Stretching helps in elongating the muscles and releasing tension in the body. It is important to be gentle with the body while stretching. Forcing anything would trigger pain.

Holding a stretch for 20 minutes and then releasing slowly can be helpful.


Aerobic exercises can be helpful in relieving muscle knots. Knots in the shoulder and neck can be relieved by jumping jacks, swimming, and other arm movements. These movements help in stretching the muscles which lead to an increase in the blood supply and repair the damaged tissue.

Hot and Cold Therapy

Combination of heat and cold help in relieving pain and inflammation that occur due to muscle knots.

Cold helps in constricting the blood vessels and reducing pain. This can be done by applying a cold compress for 10 minutes and removing it for 15 minutes. It can be repeated till relief is felt.

The heat helps in relaxing and loosening the muscle stiffness and relieving pain. It also increases blood flow that promotes healing.

Alternating between hot and cold therapy can be helpful when used in conjunction.

Muscle Rub

Muscle rub can be helpful in relaxing and softening the muscle knots. It can be applied twice to the affected area for relief.

Help can be taken to apply it to the areas of the body that are difficult to reach by self.

Trigger Point Pressure Release

In this therapy, a skilled processional applies pressure on the trigger points. until it softens and releases pressure. A set of movements are advised to be done at home that can be helpful in re-training the muscles.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is recommended for more serious cases. A physical therapist can help identify the cause of muscle knots and treat the pain with appropriate treatment. He also teaches techniques that would prevent the pain from recurring.

Massage Therapy

Massage can be helpful in treating muscle knots. Massage improves the blood flow and helps in improving muscle function and loosening up the muscles. This proves to be helpful in relieving pain and stiffness.

A person might need several frequent sessions to see improvement.

A study found that using a foam roller and applying static compression to the trigger points can help in resolving impairment in muscle function and trigger points.(4)

Muscle knots or myofascial trigger points can be treated with simple home remedies, massage, and stretching. A doctor or a physical therapist should be consulted for appropriate and most effective treatment.

Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:May 18, 2022

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