How to Fix a Muscle Knot in Your Back

How to Fix a Muscle Knot in Your Back

We’ve all been there before. We lifted too heavy in the gym or we helped a friend move houses over the weekend. and the next day we woke up with a painful muscle knot in our back. We try to poke and prod at it and stretch it out, but the pain won’t decrease. In this article we will discuss what exactly a muscle knot is and effective ways to manage them.

In order to understand what a muscle knot is you first need to understand how the muscular system in your body works. Your body is a series of muscles that are stacked on top of each other in layers. These muscles surround your joints and allow you to move in different directions when contracted.

If your muscles overwork or have very high amounts of stress placed upon them, changes at the cellular level of the muscles can occur to create a “trigger point”. These are more commonly referred to as muscle knots. A muscle knot can be quite painful and cause an aching sensation. They may also be tender to touch, or swollen depending on the severity.

It is important to know that trigger points always exist in the body, even under normal conditions. When the muscles become overworked these trigger points become stiff and sore. For example if you feel halfway between the middle of you neck and the top of one of your shoulders (see picture above), you will most likely feel a tight part of your upper trap muscle. Even if you don’t have pain in this area, you will notice that this part of the muscle feels tighter than other parts of it. However, if you place excess strain on this muscle (eg. sitting in front of your computer for prolonged times), you may start to develop soreness, and feel a muscle knot. This is a very common place for them to develop. When trigger points develop they become chronically contracted, meaning they are constantly working. This is what gives the knot-like sensation.

It’s not just your neck that trigger points can develop in. These muscle knots can appear anywhere in your body but most often they are found in your neck, shoulders, and back. They can even occur in your gluteal muscles (buttocks) too.

Now what causes muscles knots? They can be caused by:

  • Poor posture habits
  • Muscle weakness or muscles being overworked
  • Lack of exercise and movement
Muscle knots are common and create pain and discomfort in a lot of different people. However, there are many different treatment strategies you can employ to reduce your muscle knot pain.

Posture courtesy of Body Science Therapy & Performance Centre (Read the caption)

How do you get rid of a muscle knot?

In order to get rid of a muscle knot, we want to re-establish normal blood flow and oxygen delivery to the trigger point. This will help it get out of of the chronically contracted state, which will reduce your symptoms.

Here’s how you can do that:


Take some time off to give your body a rest. Stop doing activities that cause your muscle knots to worsen. For example, if lifting heavy in the gym causes you to develop a trigger point in your back after every session you might want to consider lessening your weight temporarily. If working long hours at your desk brings on muscle knots in your neck, try programming frequent sitting breaks as this will take stress away from your neck.


When we say rest your body to reduce your muscle knot pain, we don’t mean completely rest! Completing stretching, self-massage and then strengthening exercises can get those trigger points back to normal in the long-term. 

A common place to develop trigger points is in the pectoral muscles. These are located on the front of your chest, and trigger points can develop at the outer portion of the pectorals, close to the shoulder. Below are examples of ways to release a pectoral muscle knot. Make sure to consult with a massage therapist or physiotherapist before performing!

Step 1: In the early stages, stretching is a good way to temporarily relieve pain. To stretch the pecs, place your hand on a wall with your elbow slightly bent or straight. Next rotate your body away from the wall so that you feel a stretch into your chest. Then repeat with the opposite side.

Step 2: Completing self-massage is a great way to get blood flow to the muscle knot which can reduce pain. To complete self-massage for the pecs find an empty wall and place a tennis ball between it and the sore spot on your chest. Then slowly push into this spot in a circular motion against the ball. You’ll end up feeling much looser after this technique.

Step 3: Strengthening is something that you can work on once your pain is less acute. Strengthening is a great long-term approach for muscle knots as it works to increase the stress capacity of your muscles. This means the muscles are able to withstand more strain without causing muscles knots. Performing pectoral strength training exercises such as chest press and push ups can go a long way in your recovery.

Additionally, in the case of pectoral trigger points, working on your upper back muscles can be helpful. Weak upper back muscles can cause more strain on the pecs, so strengthening may be helpful. One easy exercise you can do is seated rows where you squeeze your shoulder blades together and pull a resistance band or cable towards your body.

Massage Therapy

A massage is a great way relax muscle knots. A deep tissue massage can especially help because it can reduce pain by targeting the deeper layers of muscles and tissues. Massage therapy improves circulation which improves muscle function and helps loosen up those tight muscles. 

It can be an excellent way to ease the pain, discomfort, and it just feels great! Also, a skilled massage therapist can tell you how to prevent the muscle knot from recurring in the future.

Massage Therapy courtesy of Bolton Physiotherapy Clinic (Read the caption)


If the above techniques do not help or if you want to learn how to prevent muscle knots from occurring, Physiotherapy is recommended. A Physiotherapist will identify the root causes of your muscle knots, whether it’s caused by posture, muscle weaknesses, etc. They will then create a plan to address these causes.

There you have it, some effective tips to help get rid of the knot in your back. Now If you would like to see a massage therapist in Winnipeg, Vancouver, Edmonton, or anywhere else just use the search box on this page to find one near you. They can help get rid of the knot and show you how to prevent it from happening again!


This appointment is your opportunity to tell us what hurts and discover whether physiotherapy or chiropractic care is a good fit for you! During this session, you will talk with a physiotherapist or chiropractor on a phone call (or online) and create the right care plan specifically for your pain. There is no obligation on this session is to find out whether physiotherapy or chiropractic care can help you getting back to doing the things you love in life.

Frequently Asked Questions

It depends on the severity of the muscle knot and treatment you use. It can go away in the matter of days or it may take a few weeks to improve.

Usually muscle knots will go away on their own. However, untreated muscle knots can lead to persistent pain.

Yes they are trained to feel for knots in your back, shoulders, and neck. They may use their thumbs, hands or elbows to release these knots.

About Taylor Sipos

Taylor is a physiotherapist at The Orthopaedic Therapy Clinic located in Toronto, Ontario. He treats patients with various musculoskeletal conditions using patient education, exercise therapy, manual therapy and acupuncture. His treatment philosophy involves giving his patient’s the means to self-manage their injuries. He does this through reassurance, education and health promotion. Taylor uses the same principles as a patient educator at Pain Hero. He aims to provide you with high-quality, easy to understand information to teach you about your condition and how to improve it.

Medical Disclaimer:

The information presented in this blog post is for educational purposes and should not be interpreted as medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, treatment or a diagnosis, consult with a medical professional such as one suggested on this website. The Clinic Accelerator Inc. and the author of this page are not liable for the associated risks of using or acting upon the information contained in this article.

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