What works best for relieving sore muscle knots?

Posted by Katelyn Berens, LAT, Ridgeview Rehab Specialties on May 1, 2019 12:33:45 PM

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Muscle knots, also known as trigger points, are focal areas of sensitive muscle and connective tissue kept in a state of contraction. This feels like a “knot.” These can develop anywhere in the body. Some common areas include the neck and shoulders, lower back and calves. Muscle knots can be caused by physical stress, poor posture, dehydration, injury, stress, heavy lifting or repetitive motions.

How are muscle knots treated?

Several methods work – but be prepared to get involved as a patient or client. The thought that these will go away on their own is not likely.

  • Graston Technique - Instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization used to free restrictions in muscles and connective tissue.
  • Dry Needling/Acupuncture - Needles inserted into the skin to provoke a muscle twitch which creates a positive change and reduces tension.
  • Massage/Body Work - Tissue can be treated to facilitate a fluid shift, which can lead to a positive response in the tissue.
  • Exercise - Yoga and other exercises that focus on alignment and core strength while in motion can work well to change the demand on either the knotted muscle or those that surround it. This is very effective for permanent pain relief.
  • Therapeutic Taping - Tape can be used to tame knots and change the reason they happened in the first place. Consult your medical team for how to use tape that specifically meets your needs.  

What DIY technique can I try today?

  • Compression
    Using a massage tool (TheraCane, foam roll, knob tool, tennis ball, etc)  using one of these methods:
    • Constant, progressive pressure: Using the blunt points of your tool, apply a pressure to your trigger point/sore spot. Press at a level that is felt and is a bit irritating. Hold this until the feeling of irritation passes, then add pressure to find the next threshold of irritation. When that feeling passes, release and touch the area softly for 10-15 seconds.
    • Active movement: Using one of your tools, apply light pressure to the sore area. Plan to keep this pressure steady while you add movement. For example, if you use a TheraCane on the base of the neck, keep the pressure while you nod your head up and down.
  • Heat 
    Moist heat applied for approximately 10 minutes to the area can be helpful. Create a moist heat source with a hot, wet towel that is wrapped in a dry towel, then applied directly to your trigger point. Increasing blood flow will start a flushing of trapped chemicals. For better results, combine heat with one of the more active techniques.     
  • Stretching
    While stretching is a logical approach to treat something that is tight, it is not effective over time when this is the only technique used. Stretching does not provide enough of a trigger to the area to elicit the fiber, fluid and neuro response that is needed to really remove a knot. You will do no harm when you stretch—there is value in stretching—but you will not relieve a trigger point with this effort alone.

No luck managing trigger points on your own? Try the Graston Technique.

If you haven’t had success with massage therapy or self-management, the Graston Technique may be the right choice for you.

Contact Ridgeview Rehab Specialties today to set up your Graston Treatment.

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Topics: Fitness/activity, Rehabilitation

Medical and health information presented here is intended to be general in nature, and should not be viewed as a substitute for professional advice. Please consult with a health care professional for all matters relating to personal medical and health care issues. In case of an emergency, please call 911. 

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