Muscle Knots and Stiffness
Do you ever feel like your muscles are in knots? Muscle knots are made up of hard, tense muscle fibres that can be extremely painful or irritating. The medical term for them is ‘myofascial trigger points’ or ‘trigger points.’ Muscle stiffness is when tension has formed in the muscle and can cause pain.
Muscle knots and stiffness can occur anywhere in the body where there’s muscle or fascia such as the neck and shoulders, calf, and lower back. A range of factors including overuse, poor posture, stress, injury and living a sedentary lifestyle cause muscle knots and stiffness.
There’s a range of reasons muscle knots and muscle stiffness occur. It can be due to:
Stress and tension
Stress can cause muscle knots and stiffness to form due to tension in the body. When your body is stressed, certain hormones are overproduced, which results in increased neural stimulation. This leads to an increase in the release of acetylcholine, which contributes to over-contraction of the muscle and can lead to knot formation. Stiffness can form as muscles are held in a constantly tense state.
Repetitive movements can place stress on muscles and cause tight spots, or knots, to form. Poor or incorrect posture can also cause muscle knots and stiffness in your body.
Bad posture such as hunching over a desk all day or sitting in a poor-quality office chair can result in muscles becoming tense and forming tight knots or stiffness in areas such as your shoulders, neck and back.
Sedentary lifestyle or bed rest
Sitting still for long periods of time without stretching can cause problems for our muscles, leading to the formation of muscle knots and stiffness in the body. This can also occur in the case of prolonged bed rest due to injury or illness.
Signs and Symptoms
Muscle knots can present in different ways. They can sometimes produce intense pain in the body, or only feel painful when you press on them. Pain is sometimes felt in an area separate to where the knot has formed. This is called referred pain.
Other symptoms include:
Jaw and head symptoms
Muscle knots in and around the head and jaw can cause a range of symptoms. These include jaw pain, toothaches, earaches, tension headaches, dizziness, ringing in the airs and sinusitis.
Lower back pain
Pain or stiffness is sometimes felt where the trigger point forms in the lower back, or because of referred pain from a trigger point in another location of the body.
Soreness and weakness in the muscle can occur because of muscle knots forming. Some may feel aches and pains in their muscles and joints around where the knot is located.
Swelling or inflammation
Muscle knots can make your muscles feel tight and contracted, even when you’re trying to relax. The affected area can even become inflamed or swollen.
The good news is, there is a range of things you can do to prevent muscle knots and stiffness from occurring in your body.
- Practice good posture in your everyday life. Pay careful attention to the way you sit at work and ensure you move around regularly. Consider getting a standing desk to discourage prolonged sitting.
- Ensure you get an adequate amount of sleep each day.
- Exercise regularly and make sure you include a warmup and cool down to help protect your muscles.
- Do some simple stretches throughout the day to prevent muscle stiffness.
- Maintain a healthy, nutritious diet and drink plenty of water throughout the day to stay adequately hydrated.
- Enjoy regular massages to help prevent muscle knots and stiffness and to provide relief where necessary.
If muscle knots and stiffness are causing pain and discomfort for you, there are a range of things you can do at home which might provide some relief. These include:
Take a break from activities that are causing your muscle knots and stiffness to occur. Try to relax your mind and body to allow your body to heal and your muscles to release.
Gentle stretching can help to release your muscles. Be gentle and hold your stretch for thirty seconds to achieve the best results.
Moving your body frequently can help to prevent muscle issues from occurring. It can also help to relieve pain by stretching the muscles and increasing their blood supply.
Hot and cold therapy
Hot and cold therapy can be a useful tool in providing relief from muscle pain and inflammation. Cold therapy helps to reduce swelling, and heat therapy helps to relax muscles. Alternate hot and cold therapy or choose the one which feels the best for you.
Using a muscle rub on the affected area can help soothe soreness and relax muscles. Massage into the affected area as needed.
Massage can help provide some relief. It can also be used as a preventative measure if you are prone to tension or stiffness in particular areas of the body. Regular massage may help to keep your muscles relaxed.
If you are unable to find relief using these methods, it might be time to consult a professional. Some treatment options include:
If pain is persistent or unable to be relieved using home remedies, a physiotherapist will help you find relief and get to the bottom of your issues using techniques such as trigger point pressure release, massage or dry needling.
Performed by a physiotherapist, dry needling involves inserting a thin needle directly into the muscle knot. It can cause the knot to relax, which eases pain.
How can the Brisbane Spine Clinic help?
There is a range of approaches to prevent and treat muscle knots and stiffness. If you’re not finding relief, it’s a good idea to get in touch with a skilled physiotherapist who can assess your condition and guide your recovery.
At The Brisbane Spine Clinic, we love to help people recover from pain related to muscle knots and stiffness. We can also provide prevention strategies to lessen the chance they’ll occur again. Call today to book an appointment.