Getting Rid of Back Muscle Knots When Nothing Else Works
I wrote this article as there is not much out there on this type of injury and I want to help other people overcome what I have.
For 4 months I had upper back pain in my mid and upper trapezius muscle that become an absolute living nightmare. The best way to explain this problem is to imagine shrugging your shoulders for a minute, that feeling of tenseness is the sensation that I had 24/7 . When it first started I suspected that it was spinal related as I just started going to the chiropractor a couple times a week. Each time I left I felt great and my back was pain free for 2-3 day and then I felt like I needed another adjustment. I continued going for 2 months before I discovered that my muscles were only reversing each adjustment every time due to how tense they were. I then started taking 800mg of Ibuprofen each day which helped a little but I was still in constant discomfort and having the constant need to stretch my back and neck and self adjust.
I then decided to get a deep tissue massage after I started to feel tension in my neck and pressure on my throat. I went for an hour and felt great for 2hrs and that is when things got to the worst point. My back started tensing up all the way to my neck and pushing pressure on my throat again. That sensation caused anxiety and panic along with a slight struggle to speak. I am assume that this was just my vocal chords reacting to abnormal tension but it was as if I had to intentionally talk really loud or when I spoke I would be whispering. Very weird!
The scary part came when I was stretching my upper torso by taking my arms up to chest level and twisting my upper body from left to right. I heard what sounded like “bones rubbing” together and on each twist it was making me gasp. This was basically do to the muscles being so tense that it began working its way to my chest and compressing my lunges when I moved. DO NOT PANIC! – After doing some research online, people have said that this is no uncommon and is a result of exactly what I just explained.
Not knowing what to do and thinking that something could be seriously wrong, I decided to go to an urgent care to get an evaluation and muscle relaxers. The doc said that nothing looked majorly wrong and that it was that my muscles are extremely tense and are refusing to relax. She prescribed a muscle relaxer and pain reliever. I took these for 2 week assuming that the relaxers would actually tell my muscle knots to release and relax but I am convinced that all it did was just mask the pain and relax the muscle group as a whole. My mistake I made while taking these pills was not doing any sort of physical therapy while on them besides using a percussion massager lightly before bed. Doing this only prolonged the condition for an additional 2 weeks, gave me very vivid dreams and nightmares twice a week with slight depression when coming off them. They will make your feel great, relaxed and free of pain but with a big price.
PROGRESSION OF MY INJURY
A moderate neck stain on the left side of my neck occurred from using an incline press. The injury resulted in sharp pain with severe decrease in range of motion along with neck and shoulder tension. Ice was immediately used 3-5 times per day along with 800mg of NASID’s at a time to sooth the pain. No other treatment options were exercised over a period of 2 weeks which was the amount of time it took for the pain to go away.
My body when into defense mode and protected the injured area by contracting the upper traps on the left side of my neck. The tension grew day by day and was not relieved by massage, ice or heat. The tension began to develop in my mid traps and shoulder blade areas which felt like my back was out of adjustment which prompted me to start going to The Joint, a spinal manipulation clinic. During my visits I found relief for a couple days at a time but the tension and pain never went away. After 2 months of visiting twice a week the adjustments stopped working as I would be back to feeling terrible just hours after a visit. Visiting a spinal manipulation clinic instead of an actual reputable chiropractor was my first mistake. Never seek chiropractic care from clinics that do not first take X-Rays and run EMG scans to get the total picture of your condition.
Since my left side of my neck was contracted it forced my right side to stretch which triggered my body to respond be re-balancing the muscle. The right side of my neck began contracting in order to equalize the traps, this resulted in tension from my upper neck down to my mid traps on both sides.
Equalization With Pain
Once both sides of my traps were now in balance, a significant amount of tension was now placed in my C3 – C6 vertebrates which resulted in pinched nerves. I experienced tension in my throat, headaches, grinding sounds when moving my neck and problems sitting for more than 10 minutes at a time. It felt as if someone was pulling my spine towards the floor as it was all very compacted.
Muscle Knot Takeover
The contraction of the muscles resulted in hard knots in my back as seen in the image to the left. These knots were trigger points as when pressed or massaged my neck would release tension. After days of self massage and using a tennis ball to roll out the knots, my back refused to accept the change and would not release.
The New Normal
With balance restored and the injury going on for 3 months my body began to accept the current configuration as normal. This made repairing the injuring even harder. Every attempt to relax the muscles and work out the knots was combated by my body itself thinking that it was already fine.
If you are reading this, you may be suffering from exactly what I am describing. Please keep reading to discover everything I tried and my recommended plan of action that cured my injury and put me back to normal.
The following is a list of items that I tried and my notes about them.
Massage Therapy: Deep tissue massage felt good and provided an hour of relief afterwards and then the knots got worse.
Chiropractor: I was visiting before I knew I had knots, relief felt good for 3 days after, then 2 days, then a day, then an hour. I stopped going when my last adjustment left my neck with a burning/tingling sensation.
Muscle Relaxers: This was the absolute best form of medication for relief but DID NOT solve the problem and gave me some crazy side effects. The doctor perscribed Flexeril and they kept me relaxed and covered up the pain. After a couple of days the vivid dreams came and then the nightmares every other night. The worst dreams occurred 1-3 days after I stopped taking them. If the pain is unbearable these are good for a last resort but I did not like the side effects. Be ready to drink a ton of water to flush it out of your system which takes 3-8 days on average after you stop taking them.
Pain Relievers: The doc prescribed Mobic, I did not really notice anything when I took them probably because I was taking Flexeril with it. 800mg of NSAID’s did absolutely nothing for me.
Heat Packs: I took a sock and filled it with rice and heated in the microwave. This nice homemade heat pack did not provide paid relieve but I do believe in doing this multiple times a day in addition to at home therapy.
Ices Packs: I had 2-3 knots on each side of my back in my shoulder blade area. Getting ice to that area was difficult so I did not use this method anymore than a couple times which did nothing.
Muscle Rubs: Topical creams had absolutely ZERO effect on the knots themselves. They will not loosen your muscles but I used this with a percussion massager each night and let the device rub the cream in.
Electric Percussion Massager: This costed me about $40 and works fairly well for relaxing the muscles after some deep vigorous therapy. Place one of the pulsing heads on a trigger point and feel/hear the muscles crick and creek as they loosen up.
Electric Kneading Massager: This feels good and you think it would work but all it did was move my knots from side to side and did not actually work them out. I would not recommend relying on something like this.
TENS Unit: These devices consist of a controller and electric pads that can send electric pulses through your muscles to help them relax. I bought an Omoron for $40 and it provided slight relieve for only a couple of days when I used it and then it started making the knots worse.
Tennis Ball: The granddaddy of every method I have tried was a $2 tennis ball. DO NOT doubt this method as I did as after 2 days of use my tension in my traps have decreased about 30%. See what I did in my therapy guide below.
High Density Foam Roller: These can be bought at Walmart for $20 and are good to get some pressure on your sore muscles and also aid in cracking your upper back.
Yoga Ball: This worked very well for stretching.
Chinese Medicine: Herbal Supplements, Cupping & Acupuncture. This worked extremely well for my condition.
Multi Testaments: I picked up a good 1 A Day & a Bone & Muscle vitamin that contained extra calcium and Vitamin D.
Stress & Tension Tea: – Yoga Tea makes a good brand for stress and tension. I drank 4 cups a day to help relax my body.
What Worked For Me:
Acupuncture Twice a Week for a month.
Cupping Therapy on muscles knots every other day. This promoted blood flow in areas of stagnation.
Chinese Herbal Medicine – Active Herb LiverClear. This controlled my muscles spams in my neck. I took 24 1 gram tablets every day for 1 month.
Chiropractor – Find a chiropractor that can take an X-ray & run an EMG scan. I go this done for $90 and it showed areas of tension/spasm and elevated heat from my neck down to my lumbar.
Multi-Vitamin – Your muscles need to repair so it is a good idea to supply them with extra vitamins to assist in the process. I took 2400IU of Vitamin D & 1000mg of Calcium daily, along with a standard multi-vitamin.
Stress Relief – Herbalogic Makes Decompress, a liquid combination of herbs that helps put your mind at ease and calm your body. I took 1 serving 3 times a day.
Stretching – DO NOT underestimate the power of stretching. I stretched 5-6 times per day or more. Doing sit-up motions on a yoga ball helped really stretch out my upper traps. Hold each stretch for at least 20 seconds. Doing shoulder shrugs and holding for 20 seconds also works very well. Remember, you are trying to break up those knots and restore your muscles. Using a tennis ball also does wonders in putting higher amounts of pressure on the knots.
Exercise – You may find that walking or jogging relieves your tension as it did for me. Take a walk a couple times a day and this will keep your muscles moving and promote good blood flow.
Pain Killers – I took an NASID as needed on days that I did not have time to do any of the above. They did not do much but helped a bit with the pinched nerve.
Alcoholic Beverages – I drank 2-3 beers per night for a couple weeks to get me relaxed before bed. I felt a significant drop in tension. This mainly helped my mindset during the day giving me something to look forward to that provided instant relief .
Pain Management – I went to a pain management clinic in Chandler, AZ a few times a week and that helped a lot.