If you're plagued by head and neck pain, muscle knots could be the cause of your misery. The technical term for these monsters is myofascial trigger points, and a knot on top of your shoulder can cause pain in your neck, head, shoulders and chest. If you're trying to lose weight or get in shape, the knot can spell disaster for your routine because knots can cause your muscles to tense up, making it harder to move. Getting rid of muscle knots is usually pretty easy with a combination of stretching and massage.
Locate the knot in your shoulder. Sometimes an injured or tense muscle has several knots, so massage the area and find the knot that is either the largest or that produces the most pain when you press it. Use a massage cane to directly massage the knot. The pain pushing on a knot produces can be surprising, but as long as the pain is not unbearable, it's safe to keep massaging. It's natural to tense up in response to the pain, but the key is to relax your muscles as you massage. This helps loosen the area for stretching.
Check to see if the pain from the knot radiates to any particular spot. Knots on top of the shoulder tend to cause pain in the neck, head and upper arms, and the area where you feel pain is the area you need to stretch. As you massage, slowly and deliberately move the painful area up and down, and rotate it if possible. For example, if you feel pain in your neck, move your neck from side to side as you massage the knot.
Stretch your shoulders and neck to loosen up the area around the knot. Muscle knots tend to cause groups of muscles to tense up, and regular stretching can help you escape the pain. Sit up straight and bend your elbows, then extend them toward your back until you feel a stretch. Hold for 10 to 15 seconds. Next, reach your right hand across your back to grab your left wrist. Lower your right shoulder and tilt your head to the left. Hold for 10 to 15 seconds and then switch sides. Finally, stretch your left arm across your chest, and grab your left elbow with your right hand. Push your elbow into your chest and hold for 10 to 15 seconds before switching sides.
- It can take several days to see results, particularly if the knot is large or painful.
Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.