T Nation

Muscle knots

I’ve got a muscle knot in my upper back. That seems to be the only place I get them. About the size of a pea or slightly larger, they are a hard knot of muscle that makes the whole upper right side of my back feel uncomfortable. You can feel the lump quite easily when you massage it, well my wife can.

Does anyone know how they happen and how to get rid of them?

They go with time, but in the mean time my back is uncomfortable and it affects my lifting, yesterday I stopped deadlifting early because my lower back was starting to hurt - may not be related but I thought it could be.

Massaging them out is very painful, but perhaps it is just a case of sucking it up as there is no alternative?

It seems to me to be related to an uncomfortable sleeping position rather than lifting but maybe that is just conjecture.


It sounds like you may have a vertebrae alignment problem that is causing muscle spasms. You should consider seeing a chiropractor to have you spine aligned. To get rid of thespasms, you can try accupressure on the spasm but it is painful. Also, electrical stimulation and/or ultrasound can release the spasm.

Usually knots are formed due to the muscle fibers binding together. Can be from stress, repetitive use or acute trauma.

The easiest way for you to treat them yourself is to lie on your back and put a golf ball between you and the floor. Then you can apply pressure to the knot. Move around untill you feel the ball right on the knot, apply as much pressure as you can handle and sit on that spot for a couple minutes. You can almost feel the knot give when it happens.

I would work the ball 2-3x day for 5+ minutes at a crack.


STRETCH STRETCH STRETCH…Also you can get a massage that will help also…

I get those all the time, usually caused from a muscle imbalance where that part of your back is over-compensating for another injured part around that area (usually, and it was in my case, a shoulder impingement). If they have ART over there, definitely look into it- it helped me dramatically. Failing that, find a good sports therapist that is licensed for deep-tissue massage- it will hurt like hell, but it will break up those adhesions. What exercises are you doing that preceed this pain? I would like to see what exercises you’re doing, and that could perhaps help us figure out which other muscles are lacking and causing this overcompensation in your back. Hope that helps

Currently I’m doing Chad’s Anti BB hypertrophy program.

The knot arrived yesterday morning. The day before I had done my 5 sets of chins (10 reps for the first set falling dramatically with each subsequent set :frowning: ) and 5 sets of dips.

Last night I struggled with my 10 sets of deadlifts, because of lower back pain as I mentioned - which I thought may be related to this upper back knot.

I’m into my 3rd week of this program with the first week having been just a trial run, so strictly speaking I’m on week 2.

apwellin, I’m by no means an expert, but I’m betting its the sternum chins in Chad’s program (by the way, if I’m reading his program correctly, I think you’re only supposed to do 5 reps per set, not 10, but that’s neither here nor there as it relates to your problem). Sternum chins are tough SOBs that work your back from all angles- have you done them before? If not, I’m sure the pain is from the fact you’re putting your back through a unique stress it hasn’t experienced before. I would follow all suggestions in regards to massage, stretching, and try some cryotherapy as well, and ease back into the sternum chins gently (try 1 or 2 sets of 5 to get back into it)

The following will help you a ton- Ice, massage, Active release [check it out on [www.activerelease.com],
The Threa cane and the Trigger Point Hand book. Both the handbook and the cane can be purchased at www.elitefts.com. The trigger point book is awesome, it tells you how you can work on every body part you can think of. It also gives you details on how these trigger points [knots] develope and how to keep them away.

Nup not doing sternum chins. My chins were straight chins, mind you I’ve tended to only do pullups in the past. So perhaps the chins are working the back differently?

I kind of thought the problem was related to an unusual sleeping position, but no-one’s comments seem to support that.

Chad’s program alternates between 10x3 and 5x10 (my chins and dips are on the 5 sets of 10 reps).

This is the 2nd time I’ve had a hard knot like this, so I’m going to try and keep track more of what might be causing it.

Am definitely going to try the golf ball. I’ve used my wife to massage it, but I’m a big pussy and she hurts me. I think she likes it :wink:

Do you work on a computer all day? It could be that your new regimen is causing you to sit badly or be more susceptible ot the wear and tear that stupid office work places on your back. I find I get knots between my shoulder blade from using a mouse of all things… I switched to a trackpoint keyboard and the knots disappeared.

When I saw someone about it, an occupational phys therapist, they said it was very common. In fact, she went around prodding my body telling me about my work posture before I coudl tell her. Very impressive.

I have found that after I started working out, espescially with my back that I am less prone to back pain but am very careful on days when I’ve really worked my back out.


I get tight spots in/around my shoulder blades. Its always worse during a training period with a lot of pulling/chins even though my form is good. I went to an ART for a while but I had to drive a ways and it got expensive. I think the golf ball/accupressure would work. For myself I started getting Neuromuscular Massage/Deep Tissue about once a month and that seems to work the best for the money. -LW