9 Ways To Release Tight Muscle Knots For Back Pain Relief

To get relief from your back pain you need to learn how to release muscle knots as they develop and also how to stop them from returning.

How to release muscle knots

Stiff and aching muscles are no strangers to anyone that suffers from persistent back pain.

And this tightness within your body is really frustrating.

But it also comes with an added danger, because when your muscles become tight in this way it can lead to the development of muscle knots.

And this is seriously bad news for your back.

Because it may be these muscle knots that are actually causing your back pain.

There are two reasons for this:

  • When a muscle knot forms it creates a blockage which cuts off the blood supply to that area, which means your damaged muscles can't get the oxygen and nutrients they need to heal and repair.
  • This blockage also means that waste and toxins become trapped within your damaged muscles, which irritates them and makes them even worse!

So learning how to relax and release these muscle knots is absolutely vital if you want to free yourself from back pain.

Because not only do they cause you pain, they can also lead to further inflammation and irritation within your damaged muscles.

9 Ways To Release Tight Muscle Knots

Get relief from muscle knots

Learning how to release your muscle knots when they occur will be a major advantage for you and the health of your back both today and in the future.

As not only will it lessen your pain and discomfort, it can also lower the chances of the muscle knots returning again.

Because when you release these knots two things happen:

  • Blood flow increases to the area again, which allows your damaged muscles to get the oxygen and nutrients they need to recover.
  • Pathways are unblocked which means trapped waste and toxins can be flushed out from the damaged muscles and eliminated.

This will bring you relief from the pain and tightness while also relieving tension in your back muscles.

So how can you get your muscle knots to release?

First of all you need to locate exactly where the trigger point within this muscle knot is.

Then you stimulate the trigger point by applying pressure to it, which eventually causes your tight muscles to gently spasm and release.

And your back will be much happier and healthier as a result.​

Sounds good right?

And the good news is there are many ways you can achieve this and I'll take you through some of these now.

1. Get A Professional Massage

Getting a professional massage is probably the best way to release tight muscle knots.

Especially if you can find a masseuse who has a good knowledge of trigger-point massage.

Because they will be trained to locate these tight areas of muscle in your body and know exactly how to manipulate them to release.

They do this by applying pressure in circular motions to the muscle knot and surrounding area.

This eventually causes the knot to spasm and release, which will remove blockages and allow blood to flow to the area again.

And getting a massage will also help to relax your body and mind, which will lower anxiety and stress levels, making tense muscles much less likely to reoccur.

However if you do decide to get a massage, just remember that communication is key.

As you will know exactly where this pain and tightness is coming from.

So speak up and guide your masseuse to the exact point of your muscle tightness.

And also tell them if they are applying too much or not enough pressure, as you will be able to feel if it's working or not.

But between the two of you you can really get to the root of your problems and free your body of muscle knots.

Click here to find out more about massage for back pain.

2. Learn How To Self-Massage

While getting a professional massage is great it can also be really expensive when done on a regular basis.

So if you want to save money why not teach yourself to work out your own knots instead?

There are four main trigger point locations where muscle knots tend to form that cause and contribute to your pain in your lower and mid back which are:

Clicking on each of the links above will take you to a page which tells you where to find that particular trigger point and how to treat it yourself with self-massage.

As by applying pressure to each of the points with your thumb or fingers you can encourage the knots in them to release.

Try this for between 10-30 seconds each time and repeat the process a few times per day and see how you get on.

It certainly helped me to feel less tense and tight in that area.​

However, you don't have to rely on your own hands to massage away your muscle knots.

As there are a range of self-massage tools such as foam rollers, massage balls, massage canes, and acupressure mats that can make this a whole lot easier for you.

And these are great because they can hit the hard to reach spots in your upper back and shoulders that your hands just can't get to.

Click here to find out more about self-massage.

3. Roll Out Your Knots On A Foam Roller

Foam rollers are a great way of getting deep into your muscle knots and encouraging them to release.

They are commonly used by physical therapists and professional athletes to help muscles recover from injury and intense exercise sessions.

And they are awesome for relieving tight and painful back muscles too.

To do this you need to lay your body down onto the foam roller close to your area of pain and tightness before slowly rolling your body up and down over it.

When you feel like the roller is hitting the eye of the storm of your muscle knot stop and hold this position for around 30-60 seconds.

The combination of your body weight and gravity will apply pressure to the knot and you should eventually feel it spasm and release.

This feels really satisfying and makes the foam roller a great way of keeping muscle knots under control.

And if you want to try foam rolling for yourself the one I'd recommend is the TriggerPoint Grid Foam Roller.

As this one is firm and textured which makes it perfect for getting into hard to reach knots.

Click here to find out more about foam rolling.

4. Use A Massage Ball To Hit The Right Spot

Massage balls work in a similar way to a foam roller, however they can be even more precise when targeting specific muscle knots.

This is because you can roll them right underneath your knot and relax your body weight down fully on that particular point.

So again lay yourself down on the ball and roll your body over it until you find the 'sweet spot'.

Then relax down onto it for between 30-60 seconds and wait for your body weight and gravity to do their work by stimulating your knot.

You should eventually feel the pleasant sensation of release.

And a good massage ball for the purpose of releasing muscle knots is the TriggerPoint MBX Massage Ball.

As this is extra firm so works well for getting into those awkward places.

And if you want to save some money, a tennis or lacrosse ball can work just as well (see the video above for a guide on how to use them).

5. Cane Your Pain!

Massage canes look a bit strange on first glance, but they can be super effective for releasing muscle knots.

​And this makes them a popular choice among physical therapists and fitness coaches.

They are typically s-shaped plastic sticks with a variety of knobs and handles placed at different points.

The idea is to manouevre the cane into a position where one of the knobs is pressing into your tight muscle knot.

From there you use one of the handles to pull forward which presses the knob deeper into the knot.

And by applying this pressure you stimulate the muscle knot and encourage it to release.

The good thing about massage canes is that unlike massage balls and foam rollers you can adjust how much pressure you apply depending on how hard you pull the handle forward.

So you can get it to a comfortable intensity that is just right for you.

And by keeping this pressure applied for a minute or two you should feel the muscle begin to release.

So massage canes are a cheap and handy tool to have around the home for when your muscles are feeling stiff and sore.

And the one I'd recommend over all others is the Body Back Buddy Self-Massage Cane.

This one is a best seller and comes with 11 different knobs so you'll definitely be able to hit the right spot.

6. Lay Down On An Acupressure Mat

Acupressure mats are the modern day equivalent to a medieval bed of nails.

But don't worry.

As they are nowhere near as scary and are a great way of getting muscle knots to release.

These mats come with thousands of tiny plastic needles attached to them.

The idea is that as you lay your body weight down on top of these needles they will stimulate the various acupressure points of the body.

And by doing so this will unblock energy pathways which will increase blood flow and cause tight muscles to release and heal.​

This will also help to flush away waste and toxins and reduce any pain and inflammation.

So to use the mat you place it on the floor and lay down on it, try to relax, and switch off.

Gradually the needles will work their magic and your tight muscles will begin to release.

As a beginner you should aim for between 10-15 minutes but you can build this up over time to 45-60 minutes.

And acupressure mats are not just great for releasing tight muscles, they can also bring you a variety of health benefits too.

So if you are interested in trying one for yourself go for the Nayoya Acupressure Mat.

As this one is lightweight and portable so you can take it with you on trips and holidays.

Plus it comes with an acupressure pillow so you can work on releasing muscle knots in your neck and shoulders too.

Click here to find out more about acupressure mats.

7. Use A TENS Unit

If you'd prefer to let something else take up the slack of releasing your muscle knots rather than doing all the donkey work yourself, then a TENS unit could be a good option.

As these machines release tight muscles by delivering electrical impulses into your body through pads that you attach to your tight and painful areas.

​And these impulses stimulate and massage your nerves and muscles in and around the area of your tight knot which increases blood flow to it and encourages it to release and relax.

​So they are a great, safe and satisfying way of getting rid of pain and tight muscles.

And the TENS unit I'd recommend you trying is the iReliev TENS & EMS Unit.

This one is great because it combines TENS therapy to give you pain relief with EMS (electrical muscle stimulation) therapy to condition your muscles.

And it's simple to use, as it's loaded with 14 pre-set programs and 25 intensity levels that you can adjust manually.

It's also portable and lightweight, so you can take it with you to work or on vacation.

Click here to find out more about TENS units.

8. Open Blocked Pathways With Acupuncture Or Dry Needling

Getting acupuncture treatment for your muscle knots works along a similar theory to using an acupressure mat.

That is by stimulating your acupressure points you can open blocked pathways that allow an increase in energy, blood flow, and clears out any trapped waste and toxins.

All of which are great for encouraging tight muscles to release, relax, and heal.

However, unlike acupressure mats which are non-invasive, acupuncture uses the insertion of small, thin needles into your body to get your muscles to release.

These needles are inserted into various different acupressure points around your body and are generally left inserted for between 10-20 minutes.

This is said to help unblock the flow of the body's energy, which re-balances you and gets everything working as it should again.

However acupuncture can be hit and miss for many people.

As while some people swear by it for relieving their tight muscles and back pain, for others it has little to no effect.

But what may be more effective than traditional acupuncture is to find someone who specialises in trigger point dry needling instead.

This is like a more aggressive form of acupuncture where the dry needlist will aim to get the needle right into your tight muscle knots.

And once they have got it in there they will work the needle until it forces the muscle to twitch and release.

It sounds painful but could be worth giving a go!

But just remember, before trying any form of acupuncture or dry needling to do your research and make sure you go to a qualified and respected technician.

9. Use Essential Oils

essential oils

Using essential oils can be a great remedy for your sore and aching muscles, especially when used alongside some of the other treatments I've already gone over.

And these oils can also be great for helping to get rid of muscle knots because they can:

  • Reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Improve circulation to the damaged area.
  • Reduce stress and help you to relax.

And some of the most effective oils to go for when trying to release tight muscles are:

  • Lavender oil - The analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties in lavender make it great for treating muscle stress and tension. It also contains a mild sedative which calms your nervous system and is good for reducing stress.
  • Peppermint oil - This one is great for relaxing the muscles in the lower back and reducing muscle pain. It contains an analgesic that helps you to sleep and reduces tension and inflammation.
  • Helichrysum oil - This oil is great for people with fibromyalgia, as it's a powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant. And it's great for muscle knots as it reduces pain, inflammation, and bruising while also repairing damaged nerves.
  • Black pepper oil - This has a warming effect on your muscles which helps to relieve pain and improve circulation. It also has analgesic properties which help with your muscular aches and pains.
  • Topical arnica oil - This anti-inflammatory aids healing by stimulating the flow of white blood cells which help to flush out trapped waste and toxins from your muscle knots.

And in general there are 3 different methods of using these essential oils:

  • Adding 10-15 drops of essential oil into a warm bath (this has the double benefit of the heat from the bath relaxing your tight muscles at the same time).
  • Mixing a few drops of the essential oil with the appropriate carrier oil to make a massage oil that you apply to the area of the muscle knot.
  • Adding a few drops into a diffuser before bed so you can inhale the vapors as you sleep.

So sometimes these oils are used on their own or they can be mixed into 'recipes' to make topical massage oils depending on what you need to use them for (for some recipe ideas click here).

However, as they are so potent and concentrated they need to be diluted with an appropriate carrier oil first.

These carrier oils include olive, castor, sesame and coconut oils among others (check the bottle to see which one you need to use).​

Just beware before using any of these oils to check with your doctor beforehand as some people can have allergic reactions.

And always follow the instructions on the bottle and do a test patch on a small area of your skin first to make sure you suffer no ill-effects.

Finally, make sure you only use high quality essential oils to minimise the risk of any side-effects.

These oils may not be everyone's cup of tea but they can help to relieve pain, inflammation, and tightness so they are worth a try if you are curious.

And they can also help in other ways such as helping you to relax, sleep better, shift migraines and headaches, and enhance your concentration, alertness, and memory.

And Here's How To Stop Them From Returning

So now you know how to get rid of the muscle knots that can cause you back pain.

Which is great.

But it's even better if you learn how to stop them from developing in the first place.

And you can do that by making a few simple adjustments to your lifestyle such as:

Rounding Up

Muscle knots can be a major cause of lower back pain.

As they can lead to inflammation, irritation, and discomfort unless you do something about them.

So try to release these tight knots using some of the suggestions here and see if it makes a difference for you.

Hopefully you should feel looser, more comfortable, and have a happier back as a result.

And also try to make a few lifestyle changes to reduce the chance of these muscle knots returning.

As it will make a big difference to the health of your back in the long run.

Resources used in researching this article:

​https://www.vivehealth.com/blogs/resources/muscle-knots

https://www.painscience.com/articles/self-massage.php​

https://www.healthline.com/health/muscle-knots

https://paindoctor.com/essential-oils-for-muscle-pain/​

https://draxe.com/top-10-calcium-rich-foods/

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Daniel

I'm a Painter and Decorator, psychology graduate, and veteran of 5 spinal surgeries. I want to help my fellow construction workers to fight back against persistent back pain like I have.

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