You’ve likely said, or at least heard, “I’ve got a knot in my back/shoulder/neck” and mostly understood it to be a very sore or stiff muscle; but what is a muscle knot, how did it get there, how do you treat a muscle knot, and can it be prevented?

What Is A Muscle Knot? How Did It Get There?

To understand what a knot is, you’ll need a basic understand of how muscle tissue is designed. Muscle tissue is more like muscle “fiber”. Like the fibers that make up our clothing, these fibers run in different directions, crossing over and under each other, making up each muscle in your body. Muscles themselves layer over one another and many work together to complete a single function (like raising your hand, typing, or walking).

This interconnected structure is what enables our bodies to bend, twist, and just move in general. Muscles are actually designed for physical use – so working a desk job or standing all day in a retail position works against your body’s natural makeup. Limited mobility, along with injuries or poor hydration, cause muscle fibers to stick together – creating a “knot”. Think spilling superglue or nail polish on a shirt or any fabric: those fibers are permanently stuck together.

How Do You Treat A Muscle Knot?

Luckily for us, the knots in our muscles are not permanent and can be treated with special manipulative techniques that are studied and practice by massage therapists and select other professions. If left untreated, the knots in your muscles can worsen, spread, and cause other issues, including hard to reverse postural issues.

A massage therapist can help to break down the adhesions, loosen the muscle fibers, and help to stretch out those infrequently used (or injured) muscle fibers during a regular relaxation massage. For knots that are deeper in the muscles or present between the overlapping layers, a deep tissue massage can help break up those harder to reach knots.

Your massage therapist may also recommend additional visits or to practice specific exercises at home to continue to work out the rest of the knot.

Can I Prevent Muscle Knots?

There are ways to reduce the risk of getting a muscle knot but there may be instances where it is unavoidable like because of an injury. To prevent muscle knots in general, it is best to keep your muscles well-hydrated and pliable. You can do this by:

  • Healthy Diet and Hydration: This really is the key to a happy life – eating right and drinking water. Fast foods, sugars, caffeinated beverages, and alcohol all contribute to dehydration. A well-balanced diet will provide your muscles the nutrients they need to stay healthy.
  • Exercise: Muscles were meant to be used and proper circulation is key to healthy muscles since your blood carries the oxygen and nutrients your muscles need. At a minimum you should take a long walk daily.
  • Move: We don’t mean pack up your home and get out – throughout the day, preferably at least once an hour move your body. If you sit all day, stand; if you stand all day, stretch or sit and rest. Walk, uncross your legs, rotate your neck, etc. You get the idea!