Muscle knots. They are a pain. Literally. They are common with fibromyalgia and chronic pain, but what are they? Here’s some information about what muscle knots are, how they are caused, and how you can treat them.
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Even though I’ve been living with fibromyalgia symptoms for well over a decade, I had no idea about muscle knots until years after the onset of symptoms. And I discovered them in a painful way – during a physical therapy session. When my therapist suspected knots in my hips, she didn’t tell me her suspicions. Not that it would have made a difference if she had. She still had to find them in the same painful way – poking around in a therapeutic way.
She suspected my pain radiated from my hips outwards causing pains in my back and down my legs. After gently applying pressure to several areas across my buttocks, she could literally feel the ball of contracted muscles. Even though it was gentle pressure, it was excruciating for me. To ensure me she wasn’t applying more pressure than needed, she applied the same pressure to my arm and it didn’t hurt at all. It hurt my hips because of the pressure caused by these knots of muscles.
What are they?
Muscle knots are parts of the skeletal muscle that become hard. They are also known as a “taut band” or “trigger points” in the muscle. It is when a muscle becomes tight and cannot release.
What causes it?
They are no real known causes of muscle knots. They often occur in the shoulders, neck, or back areas.
Some doctors suggest that they are caused by:
- using a muscle after not using it for a while
- a strain or injury
- chronic pain
- chronic fatigue
- bad posture
- vitamin deficiencies
What are the symptoms?
Most likely you are experiencing symptoms but not realizing it due to the pain levels. Some people can feel these balls of tense muscles while others (like me) cannot. Some of the symptoms are:
- tender muscles
- muscle pain when pressure is applied to the affected area
- aching, burning, stinging, or stabbing
How are they treated?
To treat my muscle knots, my therapist applied gentle pressure onto the knot with her thumb. Gently and slowly she would twist in the same direction the knot was ‘moving’. These knots could not be undone in one session, so the pressure was applied in short intervals a few times a week for several weeks. After each session, she would lay a warm compression across those areas for after fifteen minutes. Within a few weeks, I was walking and moving with little to no pain. It was incredible!
Your doctor will most likely give you a physical exam to determine if you have a muscle knot. Some doctors will do an ultrasound. Some treatments include:
- warm or cold compress
- stretching of the affected muscle
- massage therapy
- physical therapy
- trigger point shots (injections to the affected area)
- muscle relaxers or antidepressants
- Ibuprofen or aspirin
- meditation or other relaxing exercises