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Knots After a Hard Shoulder Workout

author image Ryn Gargulinski
Ryn Gargulinski is a writer, artist and performer whose journalism career began in 1991. Credits include two illustrated books, "Bony Yoga" and "Rats Incredible." She holds a Master of Arts in English literature and folklore and a Bachelor of Fine Arts in creative writing with a French minor from Brooklyn College.
Knots After a Hard Shoulder Workout
Shoulders can be tight after a workout. Photo Credit ruigsantos/iStock/Getty Images

A killer shoulder workout can sometimes plague shoulders with small, thick knots, also called trigger points. Your body, thinking the area is injured, produces these knots to protect itself. The knots restrict movement, which can lead to further injury. Taking action to resolve these trigger points is important because they are not likely to go away on their own.

What They Are

Trigger points are visible, tender bumps that form in muscles and their surrounding tissues when muscles are stiff. They can cause immense pain in worst-case scenarios. Although doctors usually do nothing to treat trigger points, the knots can serve as a warning sign that your muscles need some rest or attention to avoid more serious injuries.

Why You Get Them

Tough exercise workouts are one cause of shoulder knots, although other factors also contribute. Muscles develop knots when they are overworked, especially if they start out sore or tired. Poor weightlifting techniques, bad posture, repetitive or improper exercise movements or not warming up before your workout can also lead to shoulder knots. Other causes of muscle knots include vitamin, nutritional or sleep deficiencies; allergies; environmental toxins; anxiety; and stress. Sitting or standing for extended periods of time with poor posture can also result in shoulder knots.

How to Get Rid of Them

Although knots are tender or even painful to touch, your best bet is to try to separate the knotted muscle fibers by applying direct pressure. Press one or both of your thumbs on a knot for at least 10 seconds, then release and repeat at least four times. The amount of pressure you exert largely depends on the amount of pain the pressure causes. Use one thumb for the most sensitive knots and two if they can handle more pressure. As the pressure separates the fibers, the knot should eventually become less sensitive and harder to see. Because shoulder knots are often hard to reach, you might want to get someone to help you reach the trigger points. A professional sports massage is another remedy if the knots simply will not budge.

Why They Need Treatment

Trigger points are not likely to go away on their own. If you do not treat them, they can lead to bigger problems. Shoulder knots can make moving your shoulder muscles painful or difficult and eventually decrease blood flow to the area. Sometimes the pain signals trigger points send out resurface in other parts of your body that are not even near the knot. This can lead to shoulder joint pain or pain in your neck and jaw. It can also lead to a misdiagnosis of the origin of your pain. If left to fester and grow, trigger points can result in a host of other symptoms that include dizziness, heartburn or pain and numbness in your extremities.

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