Knots in muscle are also known as myofascial trigger points (MFTPs), trigger points and tender points. Their name, cause and identification can be contentious but they are a very common phenomenon and frequently contribute to muscular pain.
Knots usually have these characteristics:
- Feel lumpy,hard or gristly in a taut band of muscle.
- May be sore or tender to touch.
- On pressing a knot it may cause pain to radiate outwards or produce pain in another location.
- Knots can appear in groups with a primary trigger point surrounded by secondary points.
- They may align with acupuncture points.
- Skin over a trigger point may be slightly warmer than the surrounding area.
Trigger points are usually described as a hypersensitive group of muscle fibres. They may develop following stress or strain to muscle e.g. overuse, sustained poor posture, emotional stress. It seems likely that poor diet contributes to the formation of trigger points.
There are lots of treatment options for knots. Their efficacy varies from person to person and also depends on the location and severity of the knot. Usually it’s best to use a combination of techniques. It’s difficult to get rid of knots entirely but you can definitely minimise them and reduce pain levels.
Useful techniques include:
- massage techniques
- self massage using foam rollers, massage balls, tennis balls and other devices.
- stretching. including muscle energy techniques (METs)
- dry needling,
- posture improvement
- stress reduction
It is possible to treat trigger points at home but you should see a qualified therapist or your GP to confirm the diagnosis. There are more serious conditions which can appear similar to trigger points but require medical treatment.