If you have back pain that comes on suddenly now and then, you’ve probably used some variation of the expression “knots in your back” to describe this type of discomfort, but what does it mean to have a “knot” in your back? Pain of this nature is caused by inactive or underused muscle tissues that become less flexible. This reduced flexibility sometimes results in muscles that stick together. The resulting soft tissue weakness may eventually contribute to muscle spasms or strains. Here’s what you can do about those “knots” that may be affecting your back.
Get Regular Exercise
Since knots are related to weak spine-supporting muscles, exercise can be an effective way to progressively build up muscle strength and increase flexibility. If you’re just transitioning from an inactive lifestyle to a more active one, start off slowly and pace yourself with your exercise routine. Aim for about 30-45 minutes of moderate activity per day. Exercise for the core muscle groups that ease stress on your spine doesn’t have to be limited to gym routines. You can achieve similar results with:
- Low-impact aerobic activities like walking, elliptical trainer or step machine exercises, and stationary bicycling
- Swimming and water aerobics
- Gardening, biking, or sports-related activities
Stretch to Ease Muscle Tension
For times when you can’t exercise, instantly ease muscle tension with stretching exercises. Simple back and neck stretches like slow, sideways turns or up-and-down head movements can be done just about anywhere. You can also do stretches if you suddenly feel muscle tension while sitting at work. Your spine will also appreciate it if you take periodic breaks to get up and stretch and walk around.
A lack of sufficient hydration can increase the risk of muscles sticking together. Water also boosts the flow of essential nutrients to the tissues around your spine and in your muscles, which promotes healing. Stick with the eight, 8-ounce glasses of water per day rule. If you’re getting more active with exercise, remember to bring a water bottle with you to keep tissues hydrated.
Treat Yourself to a Massage
Easing the type of muscle tension that causes knots doesn’t always have to involve exercise. There are various forms of massage therapy that can also relax muscles and increase range of motion and flexibility. Plus, the relaxing nature of a massage can also be good for your spine by increasing circulation and boosting the production of feel-good hormones called endorphins that have medication-like effects.
Explore Physical Therapy Options
Physical therapy is a more structured way to work the muscles around your spine that are most likely to be affected by knotting. Recommended exercises are targeted to your abilities, so you may be more likely to commit to a regular routine. Physical therapy can also relax chronically knotted muscles by including therapeutic techniques as part of your treatment plan, some of which may include:
- Hot and cold therapy
- TENS units and other forms of electrotherapy
- Therapeutic massages
Don’t automatically assume persistent backaches are nothing more than weak muscles. If you’re experiencing pain that’s becoming increasingly severe or disruptive, see your doctor or a Los Angeles spine specialist to determine if there’s something else going on with your backbone and its supporting structures that may require additional attention.
If you’re living with chronic back pain, get in touch with The Spine Institute, where we specialize in procedures such as artificial disc replacement and laminectomy back surgery. Los Angeles patients can call 310-828-7757 today to schedule an in-person evaluation.