Unraveling Muscle Knots

Treating Your Muscle Knots

Imagine this:

You’ve been experiencing an achy/tender spot of muscle that has been bothering you for a few days. It feels very dense in a particular area and it is hard for you to manually massage it. This affects your mobility and you’re ready to figure out what’s going on – could it be a muscle knot?

What are muscle knots?

A muscle knot can show up as a dense piece of muscle that feels thick and affects your quality of life. Usually this kind of muscle tension crops up in your shoulders, back, neck, calves and basically anywhere with muscle or fascia are other zones where muscle knots can develop.

The most common zone is on the trapezius muscle!

Muscle knots can either be active or latent; active knots will radiate pain on their own, where a latent muscle knot will radiate pain only upon contact. 

They are different from trigger points in that they don’t necessarily radiate pain into another area of the body. A knot feels really thick, ropey and often needs some manual help to relieve the area and decrease tension. 

What causes muscle knots?

Muscle knots are often the end result of overuse. Any of the following could result in the body developing muscle knots:

  • poor ergonomics 
  • bad posture
  • fatigue + dehydration
  • joint problems
  • over-working the body through exercise
  • sleep disturbances

What are the symptoms of muscle knots?

  • tenderness when touched or palpitated
  • pain (localized or radiating)
  • ringing in the ears
  • tension headaches
  • an aching or swollen region of muscle

Remember that symptoms of pain can vary a lot from person to person, so each person’s specific symptoms can vary quite a bit.

Who is most at risk for muscle knots?

If you’ve ever worked your body through to exhaustion, you probably have had a muscle knot. Muscle knots vary in intensity and some can be incredibly painful.

In fact, if you have ever had neck pain, you have had a muscle knot! 97% of chronic pain patients also exhibit muscle knots.

More risk factors include:

  • advanced age
  • chronic or acute disease
  • stress and/or fibromyalgia
  • vitamin and mineral deficiency
  • poor posture or sedentary lifestyle
  • previous motor vehicle accidents (MVAs) or injuries


Your chiropractor, physiotherapist or health care practitioner will look for 3 things during a physical exam:

  1. a firm band of muscle
  2. a sensitive bump, and
  3. your reaction to localized pressure. 


The goal is to break up the dense tissue and to soothe inflammation in the area.


  • Take regular stretch andor exercise breaks during the day! Try some wall angels to improve your posture – all you need is a flat surface behind you:

  • Consuming calcium, potassium, and magnesium in your diet may reduce and help prevent future muscle knots.
  • Use proper form and posture when engaging in daily activities – lift heavy objects using your knees and not your back. Focus on form over quantity of repetitions when doing strength exercises. Don’t hesitate to ask one of our chiropractors or physiotherapists to assess your ergonomics.
  • Sit with proper posture – consider adjusting your work area to maximize ergonomic comfort
  • Engage in low-impact exercise, like deep water aerobics

At-Home Care

It is possible to keep muscle knots at bay on your own if you have the right tools. Remember that acute cases, as well as chronic cases, can benefit from the care of a professional.

  • apply localized pressure with your fingers to the muscle knot; breathing through the tension
  • make small circles in the centre of the knot to encourage blood flow
  • lean into a tennis ball or lacrosse ball to loosen up the muscle tension

If you are eager for advice that is specific to you and your body, book in today with one of our knowledgeable chiropractors – we have 6!

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