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Knots Vs. Trigger Points

Andrea Nederveen, RMT - Registered Massage Therapist

I have been asked a lot lately what a ‘knot’ in the muscle is and how it compares to a trigger point. What does it feel like? And what causes them?

Both can be caused by repetitive strain, an injury, bad posture or even stress. The muscles will get tight, hot, and swollen, therefore causing discomfort.

A’ knot’ is a lump of scar tissue in the muscle belly. You can feel knots when you palpate the muscle belly. A muscle is made up of many muscle fibrils and when those tiny fibrils get stressed, injured, or overused, they develop micro tears. At this point the body wants to heal that area and does so by putting down a patchwork of fibrous tissue, better known as scar tissue. The scar tissue is the ‘knot’ and the discomfort you get from them is localised.

A trigger point is a small contraction ‘knot’ deep in the muscle belly. It has a hard knob in the center of the ‘knot’ and when compressed it causes pain. Trigger points can be active and cause pain without pressure, or latent and cause pain only when compressed. The pain from trigger points often refer to other areas of the body. For example, a trigger point in the pectoral muscle can mimic the pain of a heart attack, or a trigger point in the piriformis muscle can send pain down your leg and into your foot.

Lucky for you, massage therapy can treat both! It will increase circulation and improve blood flow and break down the scar tissues by stripping the muscle fibers. As a result, the muscle function will improve and the muscles will loosen.

In some cases, massage therapy is not always a quick fix for these problems. Sometimes you will see immediate results and other times it could take a few sessions. It all depends on how long you have been dealing with your ’knots’.

Here are a few helpful hints you can use at home if you are experiencing pain from a ‘knot’:

  • Apply pressure to the ‘knot’/trigger point that is giving you discomfort.

  • Use heat or ice to alleviate pain but use ice only if you have applied pressure to the area, as you may have caused inflammation in the area and ice will take that away.

  • Use a lacrosse ball on the floor or wall to apply pressure to the area.

  • Try self-massaging tools – just be careful not to overdo it and be sure not to use the tool directly over a boney area.

  • Stretch, stretch, stretch. If you do not know a good stretch but you know your low back hurts, try looking up low back stretches on youtube.

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