What Are Muscle Knots?

Muscle Knots Are A Relatively Common Cause Of Shoulder Pain

Muscle knots, also known as trigger points and myofascial trigger points are small lumps (or bumps) in the muscle or fascial tissue that can be painful to the touch. These trigger points are capable of causing local pain as well as causing referred pain. Referred pain being pain experienced in other parts of the body which is perceived at a location other than the site of the painful stimulus. Some common sites we see at Sydney Physio Clinic where there is referred pain coming as a result of having muscle knots can include:

  • Headaches
  • Toothaches
  • Earaches

Muscle knots can occur in muscles throughout the whole body, however in our experience what we see are trigger points most commonly present in the neck and shoulders, as well as in the lower back and gluteal muscles.

Trigger points can be typically described as being active or latent

  • Active trigger points are points responsible for causing pain, see as active because they are symptomatic and relevant to some ones presenting condition.
  • Latent trigger points are points that don’t cause pain unless direct pressure is applied to the “knot”.

When pressure is applied to an active or latent muscle knot this will typically cause a dull aching sensation felt either locally or felt referring away from the point of pressure. The referred pain as mentioned above is perceived as a pain in another area of the body away from the site of the trigger point but is usually in relatively close proximity. For example trigger points in the neck will commonly cause headaches or earaches, where as trigger points in the gluteal muscles may cause back pain, or a sciatic type pain to be experienced.

Causes Of Trigger Points

There is general uncertainly regarding the exact cause/s of trigger points. Other than the recognition that some people suffer with these so called “knots” in muscles there isn’t a lot of agreed understanding regarding the science behind why some people “suffer” with muscle knots and what is the best way to treat them. Suggested potential causes of active trigger points include:

• The overuse of areas of the body through repetitive motions.
• Sustained poor posture as a result of  living a sedentary lifestyle.
• Emotional/mental stress triggering tension in the muscles.

At Sydney Physio Clinic we commonly see patients with muscle knots and can work to address these with soft tissue work, dry needling and other approaches as necessary as part of a comprehensive treatment approach looking at the body as a whole, remembering that not all muscle knots will be necessarily relevant to some ones presenting condition.

Disclaimer: Sydney Physio Clinic does not endorse any treatments, procedures, products mentioned. This information is provided as an educational service and is not intended to serve as medical advice. Anyone seeking specific advice or assistance regarding What Are Muscle Knots? should consult his or her general practitioner or physiotherapist or suitably skilled practitioner.