Knots, What Are They And What Can I Do About Them?

why do you get muscle knots

There are more than 400 different muscles in the human body which account for around 70% of the body’s weight. These muscles perform a number of important functions such as movement, maintenance of posture and balance. However, muscles do not work alone; they need the support of the connective tissues, bones, and nervous system to carry out different functions. 

What Is a Muscle Knot?

A muscle knot (also referred to as “knot”, “trigger point” or contraction nodule) is actually a hyperirritable spot in muscle or fascial tissue. According to some medical experts, muscle knots are muscles in a state of constant contraction and are the result of a body’s natural defence phenomenon known as “muscle guarding”. When the muscles are overworked, injured, or strained, the surrounding muscles tighten to form a hardened shell as a protective measure to prevent further damage and encourage healing.  

Formation of muscle knots is a completely involuntary action and the person experiencing the symptoms (such as referred pain, stiffness, tenderness and limited range of motion) does not have any control on releasing the contraction. Luckily, a number of treatment options are available that reduce or alleviate the pain and bring the muscles back to their normal state. 

Muscle knots can develop anywhere in the body, however, they are typically felt in areas such as neck and shoulder, calves, lower back, and shins. Although only a small area of the affected muscle tissue is contracted, it can radiate pain to the other parts of the body even to areas with no muscular tissues such as joints, ligaments, and tendons and can cause severe pain.  

How Do We Get Muscle Knots?

While the exact cause of these isolated areas of muscles to contract and cause pain is still unknown, medical experts, believe that muscle knots appear when a person is under stress, either mentally or physically. 

Several factors can contribute to the formation of these knots, such as:

  • poor posture 
  • a sedentary lifestyle
  • heavy lifting
  • injuries from repetitive motions or overuse
  • tension or mental stress
  • a direct injury such as a fall, strain, tear, or twist
  • dehydration

Risk Factors

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Muscle knots are usually triggered by a stimulus, such as muscle tightness, fatigue, dehydration, and overuse. People with the following risk factors are more likely to experience muscle knots:

  • sedentary lifestyle
  • poor diet (lacking minerals and vitamins)
  • poor posture
  • poor hydration
  • insomnia
  • stress
  • history of joint problems

How to Get Rid of Muscle Knots?

The best way to treat muscle knots is to get rid of them by breaking up the knotted tissues and calming the inflamed nerves. You can start off by trying some home remedies and if symptoms don’t reduce, you can always try using medications, physical therapies including needle procedures. 

Home Remedies | Why Do You Get Muscle Knots

  • applying heat pads or ice pack on the affected area
  • performing aerobic exercises such as cycling and swimming to loosen tight muscles
  • get more sleep
  • taking short breaks during working hours
  • getting adequate sleep
  • performing relaxing exercises such as yoga, meditation
  • self-massage (using a roller to work out knots)

Medications | Why Do You Get Muscle Knots

The following medications are usually recommended to reduce the symptoms of muscle knots:

  • Pain relievers – OTC painkillers such as ibuprofen and naproxen can be used to relieve pain associated with muscular knots
  • Antidepressants – medications such as amitriptyline can also help relieve pain associated with muscular knots
  • Sedatives – such as Clonazepam that reduce stress levels and promote better sleep are also useful for managing symptoms associated with muscular knots

Myotherapy | Why Do You Get Muscle Knots

The good news is that knots respond well to direct pressure and stretches, therefore myotherapy offered by a skilled practitioner can offer good results. Myotherapists not only identify the underlying causes of the knots, but they also use a number of massage techniques to soften the muscles and release tension. Here is a list of some pain-relieving techniques frequently used by professional therapists to treat symptoms associated with muscle knots:

  • Dry Needling
  • Trigger Point Therapy
  • Low Level Laser Therapy
  • Cupping
  • Acupuncture
  • Deep Tissue Massage
  • Swedish Massage
  • Corrective Exercises
  • Stretching Exercises

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