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4 Ways to Get Rid of Muscle Knots in Your Neck and Shoulders

by Matt Weik, BS, CSCS, CPT, CSN

Muscle knots, also known as trigger points, can be a common source of discomfort and pain in the neck and shoulder area. These tight, knotted muscle fibers can result from a variety of factors, including poor posture, stress, overuse, or injury. They are frequently found in the shoulders, neck, and lower back.

While they can be painful, they are usually not a big concern. However, if the pain persists or worsens, it might signal a more significant issue. Neck muscle knots, in particular, can result from poor posture, muscle fatigue, or tension. They can lead to headaches, neck pain, and muscle spasms. Thankfully, you can get rid of muscle knots in the neck and shoulder region in a few ways.

In this article, we are going to dive deeper into muscle knots and what you can do to get rid of them when they pop up and create pain.

What Are Muscle Knots?

Myofascial trigger points, often called muscle knots, are sensitive spots in muscles that can lead to chronic pain, limited movement, referred pain to other areas, and even problems with the autonomic nervous system.

Doctors categorize trigger points as either active or latent. Active ones cause pain without needing direct pressure, while latent ones remain painless until touched. These muscle knots can form in various locations throughout the body, such as:

  • Calf muscles
  • Lower and mid-back
  • Neck
  • Shins
  • Shoulders

Their presence can cause discomfort and impact daily activities.

Symptoms of Muscle Knots

Before the remedy, you must know how to detect muscle knots. Below are some common symptoms:

  • Pain localized around the knot.
  • Referred pain is where discomfort is felt in an adjacent area; for instance, a knot in your calf may cause pain in your heel.
  • Limited range of motion near the muscle knot.
  • Sensitivity and soreness when pressure is applied to the knot’s surroundings.

Muscle knots can sometimes go unnoticed as they develop. Typically, muscle knots do not resolve naturally and may necessitate intervention. If you continue to experience persistent pain from a muscle knot despite attempting self-care techniques like stretching, or if it impairs your normal mobility, it’s advisable to seek assistance.

Various healthcare professionals are proficient in addressing muscle knots, including chiropractors, acupuncturists, physical therapists, and massage therapists.

4 Ways to Get Rid of Muscle Knots

The good news is that applying effective self-care techniques can relieve a muscle knot and the discomfort and pain that comes with it.

Below are a few ways you can get rid of muscle knots:

  1. Put ice and heat pack alternately

Both ice and heat can serve as effective remedies for treating neck pain and reducing swelling or inflammation. To start with, use ice, which can be in the form of a plastic bag filled with ice, an ice pack, or even a bag of frozen peas. To prevent skin injury, wrap the ice pack in a thin towel or cloth and apply it for 15-minute intervals. You can ice your sore neck every three to four hours.

If you suspect that your neck pain is of muscular origin, moist heat can be an excellent option for pain relief. You can achieve this by taking a hot shower, enjoying a warm bath, or soaking in a hot tub. Alternatively, you can apply a moist heating pad for 20 minutes every few hours.

Regardless of your chosen method, it’s important not to fall asleep while using heat or ice, as this could lead to skin damage.

  1. Trigger point massage

While regular massages can help reduce muscle tension, they may not always fully resolve the problem of muscle knots. Trigger point massage is a specialized type of massage that specifically targets these knots. It involves applying pressure to these tight spots, which can help release the tension in the muscles and improve your ability to move your neck and shoulders.

Also, trigger point massage can boost blood circulation, which can further ease tension. Therefore, if you’re dealing with muscle knots in your neck and shoulders, trigger point massage can be a useful way to find relief.

  1. Dry needling

One method to address muscle knots is through a procedure called needling, where a small needle is inserted into the knot to help loosen it. A physical therapist or an acupuncturist can perform this.

Research has shown that needling can be effective in relieving neck pain. Wet needling, which involves the use of anesthesia, may yield better short-term results, but it’s not as effective as long-term solutions like physical therapy. If you choose a technique such as dry needling, combining it with ongoing healing approaches, such as therapeutic movement, is essential for lasting relief.

  1. Stretching

Stretching exercises that target the muscle area affected by a knot can be an effective treatment method. These stretches work by elongating the muscle, which helps release tension and alleviate the discomfort caused by the knot.


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