A Quick Guide to Breaking Up Pesky Muscle Knots

October 1, 2023
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Muscle Knots can develop anywhere muscles are present!

The medical term for muscle knots is myofascial trigger points. These pesky pain spots occur when muscle fibers or fascia tense or tighten and are in a state of constant contraction. muscle knotsSometimes they are excessively painful and even debilitating. We all experience these nagging pain points from time to time, so how do we get them?

Muscle knots commonly develop from:

1. Faulty biomechanics

2. Overuse

3. Sedentary Lifestyle

While a portion of muscle knot issues are caused by injury and overuse, the most common issue comes from a sedentary lifestyle. Sitting for too long and repetitive movements create the perfect environment in your body for knots to form.

The actual knot develops from your body trying to protect an injured, strained, or weakened spot. The muscles around the area will tighten up to prevent more injury. Knots are persistent and most will remain until the knotted area is broken up and the muscles contract. Limited range of motion, pain and tightness will persist until the muscles are loosened and circulation returns to the constricted area.

Great news! There are multiple ways to break up muscle knots!

The very basic principle around muscle knots is that they need intervention. The knotted area gets caught in the "Pain-Spasm-Pain" cycle, which causes your muscle knots to stay knotted. What happens first is the knot gets triggered, then a spasm follows suit. This causes more pain and then leads to more spasm. No fun! The pain-spasm-pain cycle will continue until it is interrupted.

How to intervene:

1. Massage! Massage will literally "get the knots out. " The more persistent knots are best handled by a professional massage therapist.

2. Stretching. One of the very best things to reduce and avoid knots is to lengthen and circulate your muscle groups through stretching and exercise that includes a wide range of motion for both large and small muscle groups.

3. Ice and heat. If a knot is causing a movement pattern that has caused swelling, then using ice for 10-15 minutes can help. Applied heat or a hot bath can help loosen up knotted muscles.

4. Foam Rolling. Foam rollers and trigger point balls are excellent at home treatments for knotted muscles. Pick up a foam roller at the Zama boutique.

Reduce muscle knots by doing the following:

1. Posture. Avoid sitting while hunched over. Engage your core and extend your spine while you sit. Consider adjusting your work station if it is preventing good posture. Take stretch breaks!

2. Exercise. Move frequently throughout the day and exercise your body most days of the week. Consult your physician or an exercise professional to help you get started on the right program if you are needing assistance. Exercise not only makes you feel great, but it also prevents injury and aches and pains.

3. Stretch. Your muscles need circulation, movement and stretching. Lack of movement and/or overtraining can cause muscle groups to contract and constrict your circulation. Gentle stretching, yoga, pilates and swimming can help your muscles loosen up and strengthen at the same time. 

4. Hydrate. Dehydration causes a myriad of problems, including muscular injuries and knots. Drink lots of healthy, non-sugary fluids to keep your muscles in optimal condition.

5. Vitamins. Muscles that aren't getting enough nutrients are more prone to knotting up and staying constricted. Be sure to get your B Vitamins, potassium, magnesium and calcium.

Why does massage help?

Besides breaking up the pain-spasm-pain cycle, massage brings new blood supply, and with it oxygen and nutrients, so muscles can function properly. Some muscles become rock hard when the supply of blood is less available.

Breaking up the physical knot and bringing oxygen in will gradually restore normal function. Massage will not always vanquish an unwavering knot in one session though. Often, knots need frequent sessions to be completely terminated. Even once the pain from a knot is reduced, the muscle memory remains and the knot can resurface, especially when preventative measures have not been taken.

Why do I get the same muscle knots over and over again?

We tend to develop patterns in life: our job, posture, activity, inactivity and so on. These patterns cause the same muscles to be overused or ignored. When muscles are painful and persistent they are considered active trigger points. A latent trigger point won't have as much feeling unless someone or something touches it, pinches it, or puts pressure on it. Knots can affect the way we move, stand, sit, our overall strength and how we carry ourselves. The most shocking part is that we may not even know we are being affected until it is has become serious.

We highly recommend doing preventative measures and talking to your health professionals. Your massage therapist, doctor, acupuncturist, physical trainer, etc... can give you excellent information that has been customized just for you.

Knots, or trigger points, have the unique quality of referring sensation to other very specific areas in the body.

Many areas will refer pain to specific points throughout the body and trigger point therapists will use these specific points to treat specific conditions. A few very common conditions that can be treated with trigger point therapy are:
-Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
-Plantar Fasciitis
-Disc Pain (often referred to as radiculopathy)

And many more...

Muscle knots are possibly the most common thing a massage therapist hears as a primary complaint.

These little nodules in our muscles cause unnecessary stress for us at various points in our lives. With a little education, a lot of peace can happen. We hope this helps.

Call today to make an appointment at 503.281.0278 or book online now!

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Zama Massage Therapeutic Spa

2149 NE Broadway Street
PortlandOregon 97232
Off street parking in back (compact cars only).

Phone: 503.281.0278


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