Muscle knots can literally be a pain in the neck. They may also affect other common problem areas, such as your shoulders and lower back. Whether they are caused by the overall stress of daily life, working at a desk job or fatigue, muscle knots can cramp your style and reduce range of motion. Luckily, you don't have to suffer needlessly. Yoga may help alleviate muscle knots, help you de-stress and unwind, and promote flexibility and mobility.
About Muscle Knots
Muscle knots, also known as trigger points, are nasty balls of tension in your muscles that are usually tender and painful to the touch. They commonly manifest in specific locations, for example, your back and neck, but they can refer pain to other areas of your body. For example, you might have a muscle knot in your neck that causes headaches or eye twitching. The causes of muscle knots can usually be chalked up to injuries, falls, bad posture, overexertion or birth trauma, says licensed massage therapist Tetyana Davis in an article for the Agni Yoga Studio in Mayfield Heights, Ohio. Accumulated stress is another common cause of muscle knots. While professional athletes and the well-to-do might have a sports masseur at their fingertips to help reduce these problem spots, not everyone always has the time or money to get a trigger point massage. If you find yourself tied up in muscle knots, yoga may be the answer you've been looking for.
How Yoga Can Help
Yoga involves a series of poses, breathwork exercises and meditation to help increase flexibility, lengthen your muscles and alleviate mental stress and physical tension. By reducing your stress levels alone, you may help disrupt the stress-pain cycle that perpetuates muscle knots. And by lengthening your muscle fibers and relaxing your muscles, you could reduce the likelihood of muscle knots in the first place and prevent their reactivation if they do occur, says massage therapist Donald W. Scheumann in his book, "The Balanced Body: A Guide to Deep Tissue and Neuromuscular Therapy." Yoga can help you achieve improved physical well-being, mental balance and promote an attitude of mindfulness that can help you recognize when your stress levels are getting out of control.
In an article for My Well-Being, Anne Meneghetti, MD suggests several poses that may benefit muscle tension and pain in specific locations of your body. If you have neck and shoulder tension and pain, you might try the eagle, cat-and-cow vinyasa, locust or fish poses. Knots in your arms and chest may benefit from the upward salute and chest opening poses. Twists and backbending poses such as the locust may promote tension relief in your abdomen. The standing forward bend and reclining big toe pose are beneficial for your back area, while downward-facing dog and the bound angle pose can help ease tension and pain in your legs, buttocks and hips. However, it's best to consult a qualified yoga instructor to learn the poses that are best suited for your condition and specific physical needs.
If you're new to yoga, you should consult your doctor before beginning a yoga program, especially if you have any physical conditions that may affect your ability to perform the poses. Persistent muscle knots and pain can be a sign of a physical disorder like fibromyalgia. Consult your doctor if yoga and self-help measures, such as stress reduction and relaxation, don't offer relief or you experience additional, troublesome symptoms that affect your ability to function.
Ashley Miller is a licensed social worker, psychotherapist, certified Reiki practitioner, yoga enthusiast and aromatherapist. She has also worked as an employee assistance program counselor and a substance-abuse professional. Miller holds a Master of Social Work and has extensive training in mental health diagnosis, as well as child and adolescent psychotherapy. She also has a bachelor's degree in music.