Should we exercise with a pulled muscle?

What are muscle knots and how do you treat them? Fitness trainers answer the most googled questions

Posted by for Strength

What are muscle knots and how do you treat them? Fitness trainers answer the most googled questions.

Those stone-like lumps we get in our muscles may be small but they’re pretty mighty when it comes to measuring how much pain they cause us. If you, or a masseuse, have ever pressed the knots in your back you’ll know that they can send a shiver around the entire body, and if you have them in your neck and shoulders you might even face tension headaches and jaw ache. 

They’re often associated with sitting or sleeping in a dodgy position or the way we train. But what is the real cause, and how do you get rid of them?

Each week, Stylist’s Strong Women ambassadors answer some of the most asked questions from women who want to get into lifting. Today, Strong Women ambassador Tess Glynne-Jones explains how we get muscle knots and what we can do to get rid of them.


“It’s basically when the muscle fibers fuse together. It can come from anything: overworking; moving incorrectly; sitting at a desk all day. Some people get it when they’re stressed as they hold a lot of tension, and similarly if they’re dehydrated. Knots can also come from training, especially if you train with high volume and heavy load.

“They feel different to a pulled muscle. I guess one of the best ways to describe it is like a flicking feeling. Because it’s basically just a ball of muscle caught up it might feel like you can’t move freely. They’re not an injury, but some people get them treated because they’re in discomfort.”


“Massage tends to be the best way to get rid of muscle knots. That’s because it increases the blood flow and circulation to the area. It’s not necessary to trigger point the knots in order to get rid of them, but some people like being able to dig down into the points of damage and apply more pressure to the knot itself.

“Foam rolling and trigger point balls can work – if you do it correctly. But if you’re not 100% sure of what you’re doing it can cause more trauma, and then your body’s natural response is going to be to seize up rather than to loosen off. It’s worthwhile asking a coach or even watching a video so you’re not just winging it yourself.”


“Movement tends to be the best way to go because it increases that blood circulation which is going to help the knots ease up. But I wouldn’t put too much force through it, especially if it’s already uncomfortable. For example, if you have a knot in your shoulders I’d probably stick to a lower body strength day and then keep the shoulders moving by doing some stretches. Don’t stress it further by forcing load through it while the muscle feels uncomfortable.”

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Chloe Gray

Chloe Gray is the senior writer for's fitness brand Strong Women. When she's not writing or lifting weights, she's most likely found practicing handstands, sipping a gin and tonic or eating peanut butter straight out of the jar (not all at the same time).