How Do You Get Rid of Muscle Knots? 8 Ways to Treat

Medically Reviewed on 11/3/2021
how do you get rid of muscle knots
Bad posture, sedentary lifestyle, stress, and unhealthy eating habits can lead to muscle knots. Here are 8 ways to relieve pain and tension in your muscles

Muscle knots are hard, tight areas of muscle that cause pain even when the muscle is at rest. Also called myofascial trigger points, these tense muscle fibers can cause significant discomfort and even interfere with daily activities. Bad posture, sedentary lifestyle, stress, and unhealthy eating habits can lead to muscle knots. 

Muscle knots usually occur in trigger points, which are classified as either:.

  • Active: Causes pain even without being touched
  • Latent: Only painful if pressure is applied (may cause tenderness or dull aching)

While not always preventable, you can decrease your risk of developing muscle knots by staying physically active, working on flexibility, and managing stress.

8 ways to relieve muscle knots

  1. Stretching: Gentle stretching that lengthens the muscles can help relieve tension. It’s important, however, to be gentle when stretching and avoid forcing yourself into positions that cause discomfort.. To decrease the chance of causing damage to the muscle, hold stretches for at least 30 seconds and make sure to slowly release when done.
  2. Applying cold and heat: Most muscular discomfort responds well to alternating cold and heat applications. Apply an ice pack to the affected area for a few minutes before switching to a warm compress or heating pad. Taking a warm bath with Epsom salts may help as well.
  3. Self-massage: Locate the knot and gently massage with your fingertips in a circular motion. Massage promotes blood circulation, enhances muscular function, and helps loosen muscles, eliminating stiffness. To apply more pressure on the knot, place a tennis ball between your back and the floor or a wall and roll back and forth on it. Experiment by moving the ball slowly to apply pressure to tense areas. A foam roller can be used in the same way.
  4. Massage therapy: Different massage techniques can help treat or prevent muscle knots, but the type that best suits your needs depends on the severity of the muscle knots in your preferences. Massage treatment promotes blood flow and circulation, which can help relax muscles, relieve pain and stiffness, and enhance muscular function.
  5. Graston technique: The Graston technique is an intensive massage technique that involves six different types of stainless-steel tools to perform muscular movements. This should only be done by a skilled practitioner.
  6. Trigger point release: With this type of massage, a trained practitioner applies pressure to trigger points until the knot softens. Following treatment, you may be given a series of motions to perform at home. This will aid in retraining your muscles.
  7. Physical therapy: Physical therapy is recommended in more severe cases. After a physical therapist determines the cause of muscular knots they will treat the pain using therapies suited to your individual needs, teaching you techniques to reduce pain and prevent it from recurring. They may also use infrared tight, faradic current therapy, or ultrasonic therapy to help relax your muscles.
  8. Acupuncture: Acupuncture works by treating the root of the muscle knot and releasing tension. While you may notice good results after your first session,further sessions may be necessary to fix the issue.


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What causes muscle knots?

Muscle knots occur when a group of muscles have been in an awkward position for too long, or when they have been irritated by repetitive movements. Almost any muscle in the body may suffer from muscle knots, but they are most commonly seen  in the neck, shoulders, back, calves, and gluteal muscles.

Muscle knots may be caused by:

  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Poor posture while sitting or standing
  • Overuse of the muscles, such as lifting heavy objects or repetitive movements
  • Injury to the muscles, such as a break, strain, or twist
  • Dehydration
  • Unhealthy eating habits
  • Tension from stress and anxiety

As muscular knots do not appear on scans, researchers are unsure what exactly happens inside the muscle. Some physicians believe that repeated muscular spasms may affect blood flow, which causes the knotted area to ache. Others believe that the pain may be caused by nerves that are activated by spasms.

What other symptoms may occur with muscle knots?

Muscle knots may cause other symptoms in the body along with pain, including: 

If your pain is severe or, seek medical attention.

Medically Reviewed on 11/3/2021
Image Source: alvarez / Getty Images

Piedmont Healthcare. What causes muscle knots?

Dean Chiropractic. A Guide to Fixing a Painful Muscle Knot in Your Neck.

Tri-City Medical Center. Foam Rolling – Getting Out the Knots.