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How to remove muscle knots

Updated February 21, 2017

Chances are high that some time in your life you will suffer the pain of a knotted muscle. Muscles function best when they are well-nourished with the right amount of nutrients and hydration and when they are used properly, without being overly strained. Unfortunately, no matter how well you take care of yourself, one day you will feel the sudden sharp pain of a muscle clenching into a tight, hard knot.

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A muscle might knot up spontaneously while you sleep or appear suddenly when you reach for something on a high shelf at the grocery store. You might simply be showering and turn your neck suddenly to rinse your hair---muscle knots sometimes seem to happen with little provocation. Fortunately, there are some things that you can do to remove muscle knots.

  1. Apply heat to the affected muscle. If the muscle pain is indeed just a muscle knot and not an injury, heat will help relax the muscle so that it can loosen and release the knot. If you believe the knot is due to an injury you've just received, apply an icepack instead and see a doctor. Electric heating pads, heated gel packs, and heat-producing disposable pads all work well for muscle knots.

  2. Massage the area. If you know a good masseuse, arrange to receive a massage as soon as possible. If you do not have a masseuse or cannot afford to visit one, there are other ways you can get the muscle massaged. If the knot is in your leg, you will be able to massage it easily yourself. You should knead the area deeply.

  3. Unfortunately, many muscle knots occur in the neck and shoulder area and are not so accessible. In these cases, you can stand under a hot shower and let the water beat down on you for a long time. After the shower, use a massaging pillow or hand held device on the knotted muscle.

  4. Stretch the muscle a little at a time, as best as you can. This will help keep the muscles surrounding the knotted muscle from clenching and thus adding to the problem.

  5. Take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicine or muscle relaxers or drink a glass of wine (but do not take acetaminophen with wine or other alcoholic beverages).

  6. Eat a banana and/or take a calcium and magnesium tablet. Sometimes muscle knots are caused by muscles lacking minerals such as potassium, magnesium and calcium.

  7. Apply a topical cream for muscle pain. Most topical creams for muscle pain give only temporary relief; however, they may be beneficial right before a massage. Topical creams help relax the muscles slightly and facilitate a deeper, more helpful massage.

  8. Tip

    Remain as mobile as possible. If you stiffen up, it will take longer to remove the muscle knot. Movement will help the muscle fibres remain loose.


    If pain persists or you believe the knot is due to an injury, ask your doctor for recommendations. If there is significant swelling near the knot, ask a doctor before applying heat. Ice may be more appropriate in some cases. Do not burn your skin. Follow instructions if using a heating pad and do not apply for longer than recommended. Never fall asleep with a heating pad on. Do not attempt to drive after taking a muscle relaxer. If you use a topical cream, follow the directions. Some are not intended to be used with a heating pad. Some muscle pain creams contain an ingredient similar to aspirin. Do not take aspirin or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines while using these kinds of pain creams--if you do, you will risk a serious overdose. Frequent or persistent muscle knots in the same area may be a sign of an underlying problem.

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Things You'll Need

  • Heating pad, microwaveable gel pack, or a similar heat source
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicine or muscle relaxers
  • Massaging pillow or hand held massaging device (or a masseuse)
  • Topical muscle pain cream (optional)

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