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  • Writer's pictureShruti GOCHHWAL

What are Those Painful Muscle Knots in Your Back and Shoulders?

Muscle knots or myofascial trigger points are the bumps like sections of muscles which cause pain when they are touched. They can exist on any part of the body but are usually found on the back, shoulder and neck region. Muscle knots cause significant discomfort.

Muscle knots occur when sensitive areas of the muscles contract even when the muscle is not in use. This damages the muscle fibres resulting in bumps which can be painful.

Types of Muscle Knots

Muscle knots are classified into two parts depending upon the pain they cause.

  1. Active Muscle Knots: These are the muscle knots which cause constant pain without being touched.

  2. Latent Muscle Knots: These knots only cause pain when they are touched by external stimuli.

What are the Causes of Muscle Knots?

Muscle knots can be caused due to the following factors:

  1. Tension and Stress: Various studies have linked muscle knots to stress and tension. It is a well-known fact that tension and stress can cause physical symptoms and muscle knots are often the first symptoms to appear.

People that have a large amount of stress in their lives often suffer from muscle knots regularly.

  1. Poor Posture: Having a poor posture puts abnormal pressure on some muscles of the body. This abnormal pressure can result in the formation of knots. Having an incorrect posture over a long period can damage muscles.

Muscle Knots A comparison of proper and improper posture

Poor posture can lead to muscle knots. Image Credits: Wikimedia commons

  1. Muscle Exhaustion and Overuse: Overusing a specific set of muscles can cause exhaustion. Overusing means that you have performed the same activity over and over again. The same activity requires the same movement from muscles which can lead to exhaustion.

It is advised to alternate between various physical activities than just one.

An exhausted person

Repeating the same activity can cause muscle exhaustion. Image Credits: Pixabay

  1. Prolonged Rest or Lack of Physical Activity: Patients that undergo prolonged periods of bed rest often develop muscle knots due to inactivity of muscles. Similarly, people who do not do any kind of physical activity are also likely to develop muscle knots.


The following treatment options are effective in treating muscle knots:

  1. Stretching: Stretching can be very helpful to relax the muscles and rid them of muscle knots. Depending on the location of your muscle knots use specific stretching exercises.

A person stretching

Muscle knots can be treated with stretching. Image Credits: Pexels

  1. Icing: Using ice on muscles is an effective technique. Ice and other forms of cold therapies constrict the blood flow which reduces swelling and provides pain relief. This can be done until you start feeling a reduction in pain.

  2. Get a Massage: A massage improves blood circulation and improves muscle function. It also has a losing effect on the muscles. Massages are one of the most effective methods which can be used to treat muscle knots.

You can also try self-massage. If you can reach the muscle knot on your body,  use your fingers too gently massage it to help relieve the pain.

A person massaging another person

Massages are very effective in treating muscle knots. Image Credits: Pikist

  1. Heat Therapy: Heat therapy focuses on providing heat to the muscle knot. This heat helps in relaxing stiff muscles and relieving the pain. It can be done using a warm water bottle or a heating pad.

  2. Professional Treatments: These treatments are used rarely to treat muscle knots but are available. The goal of the treatments is to reduce the pain by removing muscle knots. Some of the professional treatments are:

  3. Mechanical vibration

  4. Pulsed ultrasound

  5. Low-level laser Therapy

How can Muscle Knots be Prevented?

A man exercising

Regular physical activity helps in preventing muscle knots. Image Credits: pixnio

The following activities can help maintain muscle knots:

  1. Regular exercise

  2. Maintaining correct posture

  3. Reducing stress levels

  4. Avoid repeating the same physical activity every day

  5. Maintaining a healthy nutritious diet


Muscle knots in back are common conditions which affect almost everyone. They are easily preventable. Muscle knots usually resolve on their own. If they do not then the above-mentioned activities are very helpful in dealing with them.

If your muscle knots last for more than 3-5 days or cause significant pain then you should see a doctor as soon as possible.

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