Muscle knots in your back can be painful, especially if they are big and aren't going away. Some knots may cause mild discomfort, while others may affect your ability to sleep, work and move. According to a 2002 article published in the journal "American Family Physician," more than 10 percent of Americans experience chronic musculoskeletal disorders and it is the leading cause of disability in working adults. Muscle knots, also called trigger points, can be prevented and treated so you can return to a pain-free life.
Trigger points don't form spontaneously. The exact cause of trigger points is still under investigation, but it is agreed that they are a reaction to something that is happening in your body. Trigger points typically stem from acute trauma or chronic microtrauma. Acute trauma is a single instance of shock to your body, such as working out incorrectly, working out too intensely or sleeping in an uncomfortable position. Chronic microtrauma occurs over an extended period of time, potentially from living and working with poor posture, physical imbalances, musculoskeletal disorders, lifestyle and occupational factors, or repetitive bouts of acute trauma. Identifying the cause of a trigger point will help you to eliminate it and prevent it from occurring again.
Professional assistance will help you tackle your muscle knots. Your doctor should be your first point of contact, especially if you are experiencing severe pain. She can help you to investigate and eliminate underlying causes. Consult a personal trainer or physical therapist skilled in functional movement and corrective exercise. He can help you to identify and correct musculoskeletal imbalances that may aggravate knots and trigger points. An ergonomic specialist can help you arrange your office or home space so that you are avoiding repetitive movements like holding your phone between your head and shoulder, constantly turning your head in one direction or sitting in an unhealthy position.
Consult your doctor immediately if your pain is debilitating and preventing you from participating in your activities of daily life. Your doctor will investigate underlying causes and may suggest injections, coupled with special massage and stretching techniques. If your discomfort is mild and not disruptive, noninvasive methods can be used to alleviate discomfort from muscle knots and trigger points. The University of Maryland Medical center states that massage improves circulation and relieves tension, helping to return the affected muscle to a normal state. Consult a licensed massage therapist, or try relieving the trigger point yourself.
Tennis balls, golf balls and soft balls are effective tools for massaging and releasing trigger points yourself. Lie on your back with a ball underneath the affected part of your back and apply pressure for 30 to 45 seconds. Tape two balls together if you have pain on both sides of your back. Place the balls against a wall and lean into them if you have difficulty being on the ground. Foam rollers are another helpful tool for releasing trigger points. They are long, firm cylinders of foam that you lie on to apply pressure to the area. Roll the area for one to two minutes, stopping on tender areas for 30 to 45 seconds, or until they relax. Self release methods should be performed one to two times per day.
- "American Family Physician"; Trigger Points: Diagnosis and Management; David J. Alvarez, D. O., et al.; Feb. 15, 2002
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Massage
- Perform Better; Self-Myofascial Release Techniques; Michael Clark, et al.
- American Council on Exercise: Corrective Exercise Specialist
- Wellness.com; What is an Ergonomist?; Andrew L. Concors