What are muscle knots?
Muscle knots are described as small and bump-like areas that can be painful when pressed. These tense muscle fibers are medically known as myofascial trigger points. They are usually hard and sensitive muscles that tighten and contract, even when someone is trying to relax. Knots in the shoulder muscles may occur for both athletic and sedentary people. For athletes, muscle fibers usually contract and tighten because of repetitive motions. This can be common for athletes whose sport involves a lot of throwing, such as basketball, softball, discus throw, javelin throw, and tennis. For people having a sedentary lifestyle, their shoulder muscles, especially the ones connected to the neck, also become susceptible to becoming tight and knotted, because they spend too much time hunched forward in front of a computer or any electronic gadget. This sedentary lifestyle can also be the reason for poor posture, which in turn is a factor for muscle knots. Moreover, stress, anxiety, dehydration, and unhealthy eating habits can contribute to muscle knots.
Stretching the Shoulder Knots
Muscles are only meant to contract for a short period, then fully relax. However, repetitive movements or sustaining poor posture can strain muscle fibers and cause them to contract far longer than necessary. That is why shoulder knots respond well to gentle or light stretching. It does not only relieves muscle tension, but it also promotes blood flow and improves flexibility.
Stretching your muscles can help you release tension in your body. Keep in mind that you should not force yourself into any position that causes you pain. Do gentle stretches and hold each stretch for about 30 seconds. Release each stretch slowly to avoid injury. Stretch at least three times a day until the pain from your shoulder knots fades away.
Here are some stretches that you can do at home:
1. You may do this while standing or sitting up straight. Then, using your right hand, reach for your left arm around the elbow area. Pull gently on the back of the arm across your chest. Do this until you feel a corresponding stretch on your left shoulder. Do the same on the opposite side. You may also opt to focus only on the affected shoulder. Doing this will be both beneficial both for the the outer and rear muscles of the shoulder.
2. By either standing or sitting up straight, reach behind your back and grab the wrist of the other hand with the shoulder knot. Next, gently pull down on your arm just above the wrist until you feel a good stretch in the affected shoulder. This stretch is especially good for those shoulder muscles that are attached to your neck. Drop your ear towards the opposite shoulder in order to increase the stretch.
3. This stretch is best for shoulder knots that are closer to your shoulder blades. Place a tennis ball on the floor. Lie on it for about five minutes, making sure that the tennis ball is right beneath your knot. You may feel a bit uncomfortable at first but you will feel the knot slowly fades away.
You may also try these yoga shoulder stretches below. Again, hold each position for at least 30 seconds. Get the best result from these stretches by relaxing your body into them instead of forcing the stretch.
1. Neck Stretch
This stretch is good if you have knots on the area of your shoulders that are particularly close to your neck. For sure, a neck stretch can give you some relief.
To perform the neck stretch, first, sit on the floor cross-legged. Then, with your shoulders back down, lean your head to your right shoulder. Do not try to lift your right shoulder to meet up with your head. Concentrate on extending your neck while keeping your shoulder down. Pull your head towards your shoulder using your right hand to increase the stretch. Repeat the process on the other side.
2. Upward-Facing Plank
The habit of slouching forward can cause tension and knots in the shoulders. The upward-facing plank relaxes the tension and knots in the shoulders by stretching the inner arm muscle and the front of the chest. It also helps to strengthen the back muscles, pulling the shoulders back into correct alignment.
First, sit on the floor with your legs straightened in front of you. Then, place your hands behind you, making sure that the distance apart is wider than your hips and the fingers are facing forward. Next, slightly bend your elbows, inhale as you push your hip towards the ceiling. Now, straighten your arm, keeping your chest open and lifted. Take your head back and do not let your hips sag toward the ground.
3. Eagle Pose
The eagle pose stretches the entire shoulder and upper back area. To do the eagle pose, start by standing tall with your shoulders back and down. Next, put your arms in front of you, placing your right arm under your left. Then, bend both elbows. Now, like a snake, enfold your right arm around your left, touching your palms together. Deepen the stretch by gently lifting your elbows, still with palms touching each other. In case your palms can’t touch, use the back of your hands instead.
4. Cow Face Pose
This pose also stretches the entire shoulder. It also opens up the chest and relaxes muscle tension and knots in the shoulders.
To perform the cow face pose, sit straight on the floor. Then, reach your right hand behind you like are giving yourself a pat on the back. Next, reach your left hand toward your lower back. Now, do your best to extend both of your hands until you can grasp the fingertips on each hand. Hold this for a while, then gently lower both arms. Switch and repeat the process.
If ever you find it hard to clasp your fingertips behind your back, you may use a strap to bridge the gap.
5. Wide-Legged Forward Bend with Clasp
This gives a deep stretch not only for the shoulders but also for the neck, releasing tension from both areas. Start by standing with your feet spread wide apart, maybe about four feet. Then, hold your hands behind your back. Your palms should be pressed together. Next, fold yourself forward. Now, simultaneously draw your hands up as your head moves towards the floor. Make sure that you keep your shoulders steady, not letting it move up your neck. Slowly return to your original position.