A muscle knot is a hard, sensitive area of a muscle. A knot will tighten and contract even when a muscle’s not doing anything. These contractions can cause pain in other body parts through trigger points.
How muscle knots happen is too many causes, including overuse, injury, or poor posture. A muscle knot in your back can be particularly painful and take time to heal. Fortunately, there are ways to speed up the recovery process.
Here are tips on how to get a knot out of your back:
1. Rest and relax your back
A muscle knot needs to heal. If you know what caused the knot to happen, like a particular exercise, avoid the activity. Anything that increases your pain or discomfort should be reduced and stopped altogether. Get rid of it. Relax and rest.
Ensure you are sitting or lying down in a comfortable position when you’re around the house and not working. Also, make sure you’re getting enough sleep. This will all help your body heal naturally, even without other interventions.
2. Stretch the back area
A gentle stretch in and around the area can elongate those muscles and release tension. Any stretching will also help fill the area with circulation and all the benefits that come with that.
Be gentle, though. You do not want to force anything or do anything that causes pain. An ideal stretching routine won’t take longer than 5-10 minutes. Stretch and release slowly, holding for 30 seconds or less.
3. Careful back exercises
Depending on where the knot is on your back, certain exercises may help. For knots in the back, swimming can help. Any arm, shoulder or hip movements may also stretch and work the muscles, causing them to release and heal the damaged tissue. You won’t want to overdo anything.
If you don’t normally exercise, you may want to stick to some light stretching and avoid heavy weightlifting or anything that could intensify pain in the area.
4. Hot/Cold therapy
Heat and cold therapy will help bring down inflammation and help with pain relief while your muscle knot heals. Apply cold for 10 minutes, then remove for 15 minutes, and repeat. Cold constricts blood vessels, cutting down on swelling. You can also use heat – a la a heat pad or warm bath.
Heat works differently, relaxing and loosening muscles and also relieving pain. Alternating between cold and heat, or using whichever works for you, can help your body in a big way.
5. Massage therapy for back pain
The right massage therapy targets the area where the muscle knot is. To get rid of a knot, you have to break up the knotted tissue and calm the inflamed nerves. This can be done through manual stimulation. A trigger point release will apply pressure on the muscle knot, softening it and eventually causing it to release.
You may need multiple massage therapy sessions to do this manually, but it’s a method that’s proven to work. Specific physical therapy movements are used in extreme cases to address underlying causes of muscle knots and the like.
6. Creams and Rubs
Any sort of cream or rub can help soften and relax muscles, especially with massage therapy. Anything with menthol, capsaicin, or camphor, alongside a massage, can at the very least provide some pain relief while your body releases the tension.
Where a knot may be located on your back, applying a cream or rub may be difficult. If you have a friend or have scheduled a massage for knots in your back, this is one way to use such products.
7. Self-massage at home
When you don’t have someone there to manually manipulate the area, carefully try some self-massage. Place a tennis ball between your back and the floor, or your back and the wall, and back and forth, and roll yourself carefully over it.
Apply pressure on any points of tension and to the knot as comfortably as you can. A foam roller works similarly if you want to take things to the next level.
8. Heal repeated muscle knots
If muscle knots in your back continue to happen, there is likely an underlying cause. Lifestyle changes you can make include ensuring you’re taking on good posture, getting more rest, and not overstraining your muscles before any exercise or warm-up.
Afterward, stretch and cool down. You may want to try more stretching throughout the day. Nutrition also plays an important role. Make sure you drink enough water and are eating fresh, whole foods.
In rare cases, muscle knots should be assessed by a health professional. If a muscle knot isn’t releasing, it can lead to chronic pain and other health issues. If you have been unable to relieve a knot or the pain is increasing to severe levels, this is when to notify your doctor. A muscle knot could be other things. It doesn’t hurt to have it checked out if there are any concerns.