Muscle knots are common and can occur anywhere on the body. They can cause aching and pain in the muscles and joints. When examining a muscle knot also known as myofascial trigger points, it can feel swollen, tense, or like a bump. A particular area where these knots present is in the low back. This happens from excessive wear-and-tear on the lower spine from work, school, daily tasks, and chores. This causes the muscle fibers to tear, and with restricted or no time to rest the area and let it heal properly leads to the fibers bunching/clumping together forming a painful knot.
Muscle Knots In The Lower Back
A muscle knot in the lower back causes aching, soreness, and full-on pain. They tighten and contract even when the muscle is resting. The affected area often becomes inflamed or swollen causing pain and aches to radiate/spread to the gluteal muscles, as well.
These knots develop when the tissue fibers pull apart and bunch up together. They start to stick together and with time the area becomes thicker. This results in the muscle knot. They can be caused by:
- Poor posture
- Muscle overuse
- Muscle strain
- Sedentary habits
Body dehydration and an unhealthy diet can also contribute to muscle knots. They look like a small bump under the skin. The bump can be red and is usually tender/sore when touched. However, not all muscle knots are visible, but when touched there is soreness and/or pain.
Do They Go Away?
They can go away on their own, but this comes from proper rest and recovery time. However, muscle knots should not be ignored, as even the smallest knot can compress surrounding nerves and muscle tissues. This can cause irritation and weakness. Larger muscle knots could cause movement/mobility issues.
Stretching will help stretch out and release tight muscle knots. Stretching loosens the muscle fibers and prevents them from becoming attached. Stretches to release a muscle knot include:
Start with these simple stretches/exercises and slowly work up to more vigorous ones.
Chiropractic care can break down muscle knots through various adjustments. They are experts on the musculoskeletal system and understand where the problem is occurring along with the connected muscles.
- A chiropractor will palpate the spot where the most pain presents and the surrounding area.
- They will begin with a soft massage. This warms up the area getting the blood circulating. The blood circulation helps prevent pain making the adjustment/s far more effective.
- Then pressing on nearby joints that the muscle knot is connected to breaks up the tight fibers.
- Then the section/area is stretched out. This extends the fibers and prevents them from winding back into a knot.
- They will recommend stretches and exercises
A massage helps to release tension and encourages muscle knots to loosen up and break down. A massage therapist will perform a deep tissue massage or a Swedish massage. Massage helps to release endorphins, which are the body’s natural painkiller. These calm the body and reduce pain. They will also recommend simple massages at home. These can include:
- Rolling a massage ball/roller on the muscle knot
- Self-massage using the fingers in circular motions on the affected area
Heat and Ice
Hot and cold therapy can calm and prevent inflammation. Heating pads are best if the area has stiffness or is painful. The heat relaxes tight muscles and increases blood flow. Cold therapy stops the swelling. If the muscle knot gets bigger or begins turning red, icing the area is recommended. Alternating between the two can eliminate symptoms and assist with quicker healing.
Building Functional Strength
There are exercises to improve functional strength. Functional training targets specific areas:
These types of exercises should be incorporated into a workout routine. One exercise is:
The muscles worked include:
- Pectoralis major/minor
- Rectus abdominus
- Deep abdominals
- Hip abductors and rotators
- Scapula stabilizers
To do the exercise
- Start with doing a normal pushup.
- When the top of the movement is reached
- Lift one arm up, turn the shoulder, and reach up
- Then lift the outside leg up as high as possible and hold for 10 seconds
- Repeat on the other side
- Do 6-10 repetitions on each side
This exercise builds shoulder, arm, and hip strength. It engages the core and abdominal muscles and improves flexibility in the shoulders, back, and hips.
The information herein is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional, licensed physician, and is not medical advice. We encourage you to make your own health care decisions based on your research and partnership with a qualified health care professional. Our information scope is limited to chiropractic, musculoskeletal, physical medicines, wellness, sensitive health issues, functional medicine articles, topics, and discussions. We provide and present clinical collaboration with specialists from a wide array of disciplines. Each specialist is governed by their professional scope of practice and their jurisdiction of licensure. We use functional health & wellness protocols to treat and support care for the musculoskeletal system’s injuries or disorders. Our videos, posts, topics, subjects, and insights cover clinical matters, issues, and topics that relate to and support, directly or indirectly, our clinical scope of practice.* Our office has made a reasonable attempt to provide supportive citations and has identified the relevant research study or studies supporting our posts. We provide copies of supporting research studies available to regulatory boards and the public upon request. We understand that we cover matters that require an additional explanation of how it may assist in a particular care plan or treatment protocol; therefore, to further discuss the subject matter above, please feel free to ask Dr. Alex Jimenez or contact us at 915-850-0900.
Dr. Alex Jimenez DC, MSACP, CCST, IFMCP*, CIFM*, CTG*
Licensed in Texas & New Mexico
Cramer, Holger et al. “Postural awareness and its relation to pain: validation of an innovative instrument measuring awareness of body posture in patients with chronic pain.” BMC musculoskeletal disorders vol. 19,1 109. 6 Apr. 2018, doi:10.1186/s12891-018-2031-9
Malanga, Gerard A et al. “Mechanisms and efficacy of heat and cold therapies for musculoskeletal injury.” Postgraduate medicine vol. 127,1 (2015): 57-65. doi:10.1080/00325481.2015.992719