The latissimus dorsi -- commonly referred to as lats -- muscles are two broad, flat muscles on either side of the back. They attach directly to the spinal column and affect back strength and shoulder rotation by pulling on the shoulder blades. These muscles commonly develop knots caused by injury, overuse or a sedentary lifestyle. The knots are a result of tense muscle tissue that is stuck in a spasmlike state. Muscle knots can cause moderate pain and mobility difficulties, but they are usually short-lived and don't typically indicate a serious underlying condition. If the knots do not go away after a few days, or you experience severe pain, consult a physician.
Practice good posture. Hunching over a computer or sitting in awkward, uncomfortable positions can cause muscle knots to develop. If you work an office job, take frequent breaks and walk around your office or stretch. By keeping your body moving, you give your muscles needed exercise and decrease your chances of muscle spasms and knots.
Massage the area. A massage cane, which has nobs on the end of it and is curved to reach the back, can make massage easier and less stressful for your hands. Place pressure directly on the knot while relaxing the muscles surrounding it. If you notice that the pain radiates to another area, such as the shoulder or arm, massage this area too. Massage may be painful, but it can help the muscles release. Avoid massaging for more than 5 to 10 minutes at a time, as excessive pressure can cause more pain and even bruising.
Drink plenty of water. Dehydration can contribute to muscle cramping and the muscle knots. In some cases, a potassium or calcium deficiency may also contribute to muscle pain. Ask your doctor about taking a multivitamin.
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Try alternative pain management strategies. According to the Cleveland Clinic, acupuncture can effectively manage some back pain. Myofascial trigger point therapy, which targets muscle knots, is also effective at treating muscle knots. This therapy places pressure directly on the knots, often while moving surrounding muscles. Consult your doctor for a recommendation for a myofascial trigger point massage specialist.
Alternating hot and cold -- 20 minutes on, 20 minutes off for each -- can help to alleviate the pain of muscle knots but is unlikely to make the knots themselves go away.
- MayoClinic.com: Massage and Other Hands-On Therapies Can Reduce Pain
- Cleveland Clinic: Acupuncture
- Trigger Point Therapy for Myofascial Pain; Donna Finando et al.
- Biology: Life on Earth with Physiology; Gerald Audesirk et al.
Brenna Davis is a professional writer who covers parenting, pets, health and legal topics. Her articles have appeared in a variety of newspapers and magazines as well as on websites. She is a court-appointed special advocate and is certified in crisis counseling and child and infant nutrition. She holds degrees in developmental psychology and philosophy from Georgia State University.