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Trigger Points and Muscle Knots

What is the relationship between a muscle knot and a trigger point?

Trigger points are tender spots on your body that “trigger” or cause discomfort usually due to injury, overuse or poor posture. They are common in areas like the shoulders and neck but they can develop other places as well. For some people trigger points can be quite painful. A trigger point feels like a “knot” in your muscle or the fascia (the thin wrapping around each muscle) that becomes painful when compressed. Muscle knots can feel like marbles, rocks or tight guitar strings. Trigger points in muscles are also called myofascial trigger points.

How can you tell if you have a muscle knot or trigger point?

You’ll know if you have a trigger point after applying direct pressure to a “knot” and you have referred pain to another area of the body. For example, a trigger point in the upper trapezius may refer pain to the head and neck. Not all trigger points need to be touched to know they are there. Some are so active that you feel it when you move. The range of sensations you might feel from a trigger point could range from mild achiness to intense pain.

How are Trigger Points treated?

Of course, massage therapy is an effective way to treat trigger points. However, dry needling and trigger point injections have also had great results. To provide pain relief at home try some of the following:

  • Apply ice to reduce inflammation, especially if the pain flares up after activity. If the pain lasts and your muscles become sore, apply heat to ease tight muscles.

  • Loosen the knots with self-massage to encourage the muscle to relax.

  • Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications may help relieve muscle pain.

  • Try to avoid activities that cause flare ups.

  • Do some gentle stretching.

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