What Are Muscle Knots?

What Are Muscle Knots?

Whether it’s after a long day hunched over
your computer or a week of stressing out about a big test, you probably have had muscle knots
before. These knots — otherwise known as myofascial
trigger points — are pretty much what they sound like: painful spots in your muscles.
They’re different from the kind of muscle soreness that shows up a day or two after
you exercise. But biologists still aren’t entirely sure
what these trigger points are — or how to fix them. On the one hand, the physical sensation of
a muscle knot seems to be real and measurable, and it’s sometimes linked to severe, ongoing
pain. The evidence for this comes mostly from magnetic
resonance elastography imaging, a form of MRI that allows researchers to examine soft
tissues — like muscles. The images sometimes show V-shaped patterns
in muscles that correspond to the little nodules you can feel at the trigger points. So it’s possible that they come from overactive
nerves, which send too much of the chemical signal that causes muscles to contract — which
shows up as those patterns on scans. Those extra tense muscles would prevent normal
blood flow through the muscle tissue, which would explain why they hurt. If that’s the case, treatments like massage,
physical therapy, and anesthetics might help by relaxing the tissue, restoring normal blood
flow, and reducing pain. But some studies have shown that they don’t
help, which could mean that our understanding is flawed. For example, in most patients, when researchers
injected trigger points with meds that should’ve stopped the muscles from over-contracting,
it didn’t affect pain levels. And in some studies, many of the other recommended
treatments barely helped more than a placebo. It’s just hard to know for sure, because
these muscle knots aren’t well understood. The diagnostic criteria aren’t clear, which
means that studies aren’t all that consistent — what one group of researchers considers
a muscle knot might not count for a second group. So it’s hard to compare results. But there is at least one thing that scientists
can agree on: understanding these trigger points is probably important for understanding
chronic pain disorders, like fibromyalgia, or chronic, widespread muscle pain. Because in order to properly treat pain, especially
chronic pain, doctors need to figure out what’s actually causing it. And maybe, along the way, they will learn
more about where those hard, uncomfortable knots come from — and how to get rid of them. Thanks for asking, and thanks especially to
all of our patrons on Patreon who keep these answers coming. If you would like to submit
questions to be answered, or get these Quick Questions a few days before everyone else,
go to patreon.com/scishow. And don’t forget to go to youtube.com/scishow and subscribe!

100 thoughts on “What Are Muscle Knots?

  1. Couldn't studies be done by taking samples of the chemical composition around the "knot"? (I thought I heard that the culprit was excess acetocholine or calcium)

  2. I get these knots in my shoulders and upper back it feels so much better to massage over the lump in particular I'm always looking for someone to massage my back 😂😂

  3. INTERESTING subject… here in Dominican republic its called "carne huida" that would be translated as "ranaway meat"

  4. I actually was wondering something related just earlier- why is heat so effective at soothing tight or stretched muscles?

  5. Can scishow talk about other medicine in the world rather than just western medicine? Things like how western medicine sees those other practices, I think that would be every interesting!

  6. One beneficial way to avoid these painful knots is to do gentle stretching exercises at least three times a day. A good physiotherapist would be able to show these stretches to anyone who visits them

  7. I was hoping so much for some help here! I have severe issues with muscle knots and spasms. Right now I've had a big cluster of painful knots running down from my neck and shoulder on the left side all the way down by my spine and across my left shoulder blade! I do have Fibro, and I've tried stretching, meditating, self-massage, heating pad, plenty of sleep, etc etc. It mostly has gotten worse! And sometimes it's causing migraines, too! (though that could be my thyroid issues causing that) Anyway, no answers, eh? =(

  8. In my body, it feels like the muscle knots are a part of the muscle that tenses easily or remains tense, such that if I need the muscle to relax and stretch, it won't and that's when it'll feel pain. It's not the same as a cramp because a muscle cramp would be when it's contracting too far even when I'm not trying to stretch it–though I sometimes get that muscle knot feeling during any cramp.

  9. look into dr. Sarno. he is the Pioneer and tension mileneural syndrome, or TMS. pain caused by mild oxygen deprivation due to stress.

  10. I get these in my Calves. usually When I stretch as I am asleep. wake up screaming from the Agonizing Pain. Hurts so much.

  11. Fibromyalgia is not a disease. ffs.
    It's fat American white women who don't want to work anymore going "it hurrrrts" in general area's and doctors going "you have symptoms? oh that has to be medical". No, It's psychological from the start.

  12. In my personal experience treatment has incorporated the things mentioned but the root cause was beyond the physical. I would love to see a video on the link between ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) and physical health problems. The book Childhood Disrupted discusses this link and all the clinical research done on the subject. I have found I not only had to treat the physical symptoms of my pain but the reason I had so much tension in the first place. This might not be the case for everyone but it's bringing a more complete healing process for me.

  13. I've always been told to eat a banana when I get them. Something about sodium and potassium balance being out of whack, which I know makes sense for osmosis and whatnot, but I'm not sure how that causes muscle knots. Not sure if it's just an old wives tale or not but I still eat a banana whenever I get one. Just in case…

  14. Why is it that humans go from growing and developing to collapsing and breaking down? What keeps us from continually getting taller and developing more and more cells until we're supersmart giants who can regrow limbs?

  15. I have Fibromyalgia. The most effective method I've found for relaxing knots is to apply moderate pressure along the muscle/tendon and draw along its length from the side closer to your torso towards the end of your extremity. Picked it up from my masseuse. It's quite effective and helps me stay functional.

  16. I use to have muscles knots near my butt area and my groin area too in the summer is so annoying I try to scratch it but it didn't work that pain is not hurt but it feel so wired at the same time but find the trigger point in my back to help relief that pain and is kinda feel good or maybe to good to the point kinda moan a little bit in my bed room

  17. This video is a bit stupid because you dont have to be scientific in order to know how they happen or how to stop them (it happens to me sometimes)!

  18. I gave the benefit of the doubt. Thought to my self at some point he will surely tell me what a muscle knot is… 🤦‍♂️

  19. Me: oo what's a muscle knot?
    Scishow: We don't know , and we don't know how to fix them. My work here is done.
    Me: But you didn't do anything.

  20. these are understood and treatable, the point of this video is they don't have a pharmaceutical treatment worth much; long term pain pills, muscle relaxers. Outside of the pill world there are many effective treatments and preventative habits.

  21. It's very important to start from the spine when massaging or exercising. If there's a kink (subluxation) in the spine, it throws the entire body out of balance, and your local administrations will be to no avail. Pain in the extremities is usually referred from a snurgle further upstream. If you massage/exercise only locally, the deeper snurgle will pull everything askew again in a matter of hours. This is a really simple principle that you can demonstrate for yourself or a friend instantly. No need to be mystified by musculoskeletal owees anymore.

  22. Do one on Texidor’s twinge aka Precordial Catch Syndrome. Apparently no one knows what that scary as heck but not dangerous at all thing is all about.

  23. You don't know how to fix them? I have a video on my channel on how to fix it forever in the shoulders. I treat people all the time.

  24. Just take painkillers, mask the pain, and continue with your normal life. What can go wrong years down the line?

  25. I've had myofascial pain sydrome for the last 6 years and I wish to hell they would hurry up and figure it out. MAssaging the trigger point does work but only briefly, and then it comes back. It causes migraine and nausea when in the neck and shoulders, and muscle weakness and shooting pain when in other parts of the body. Yet doctors almost seem to look at you like they dont have a clue as the science on it is so poorly understood and disseminated. In short, its a miserable situation.

  26. Massages don’t help with knots? I call B.S. Unless you were treated by someone who did not know what they were doing.

  27. Hank,
    are you holding back some information?
    Don't get me wrong.
    All I'm saying is…
    that's knot all there is to it.

    Ok I'll show myself out.

  28. Massage does not work my ass! It’s the only freaking thing that actually works…. keep on studying man, what in hell do you know if you don’t know how they form and how to get rid off them. SciShow do a little research the next time so that uploading a video makes al least a little bit of sense…

  29. Goddamn, I've been struggling with chronic pain that isn't at all relieved by massages and physical therapy and this video only further confirmed that my doctors arent even sure what theyre doing LOL… what helped for my mom is a TENS apparatus tho!

  30. Because perhaps.. The Docs who got it wrong don't understand the body enough. The muscle knot that they injected on could just be a symptomic reaction to the real cause of the pain point. Like some forearm pains are caused by shoulder blade issues, some leg pain are caused by butt, lower back, or even torso side muscles

  31. I'm a massage therapist. I also live with chronic pain due to EDS and hyper joint mobility. Massage does help but it has to be done with hard point work and cross fiber friction
    Needling also works.
    Steroid shots are horrible for your body.
    Also the CDC needs to leave chronic pain patients alone.

  32. This is very good because this proves that all these people talking about knots, and quite often contradicting each other, do not really know what they are talking about. I think the world of the musculoskeletal disorders needs a lot more science and less trial and error.


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