How to Get Rid of (and Prevent) Muscle Knots Produced by Stress

by Edie Horstman

Stress: The Pros and Cons

Stress–to varying degrees–is universal. It is pervasive, and none of us is immune to it. Whether it be the death of a loved one, a difficult relationship or simply running late to an appointment, stress is the body’s way of responding to any type of demand or threat. And while stress is inevitable, it is also a normal reaction to change. Not only does stress surface during negative experiences, but it can also be the by-product of something positive: the birth of a child, buying a home or receiving a promotion.

The human body is designed to both experience stress and react to it. It is the sympathetic nervous system–also known as the “fight or flight response”–that keeps us alert, motivated and ready to avoid unfavorable situations. Stress becomes harmful, however, when it is chronic. Over time, stress-related tension can build, leading to physical and mental wear and tear on the body, including muscle knots in the shoulders, back etc.

What Are Muscle Knots?

Muscles knots are hard, sensitive areas that are painful to the touch. These knots tighten and contract, even when the muscle is at rest. The medical term for muscle knots is myofascial trigger points, and they occur when muscle fibers (or the bands of tissue underneath them) tense and tighten. These trigger points not only cause pain but they also limit range of motion and should be treated as early as possible.

Muscle knots can develop almost anywhere on the body, and when a trigger point is pressed, the pain spreads from the trigger point to nearby muscles. They commonly occur in the calf muscles, lower back, neck and shoulders and are caused by dehydration, poor posture, overusing a particular muscle, injury, a sedentary lifestyle or stress.

CBD for Pain Relief

Because treating muscle knots can take time, breaking up the knotted tissue and calming inflamed nerves in an efficient, effective manner is key. There are a variety of ways to prevent and relieve muscle knots, including the use of cannabidiol. With its robust therapeutic profile, CBD has the ability to treat a wide range of ailments, including autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s, metabolic syndrome (diabetes and obesity) and inflammation in the muscles and joints.

CBD can work as a muscle relaxant in the case of muscle knots. Through the endocannabinoid system (ECS)–an innate network of cannabinoid-like substances and cannabinoid receptors in the human body–CBD can target areas of inflammation. When ECS receptors interact with CBD, they produce anti-inflammatory effects that reduce pain. Therefore, incorporating CBD-infused lotions or salves (through massage therapy or spot-treatment) is a viable holistic remedy for relieving symptoms of chronic pain. Additionally, CBD oil can be used to reduce anxiety and stress, thus mitigating muscle knots before they happen.

Other Forms of Natural Treatment

Beyond the use of CBD for preventing and relieving muscle knots, other helpful forms of treatment include meditation, stretching, exercise, physical therapy and trigger point pressure release. Meditation has been shown to reduce stress, and a reduction in stress releases muscle tension. And because a sedentary lifestyle can lead to muscle knots, gentle stretching and exercise are important in reducing myofascial trigger points. Along with stretching and exercise, evaluating ways to practice better posture can help prevent muscle injuries.

A physical therapist can help to identify the underlying causes of muscle knots. Using appropriate treatments on a case-by-case basis, they can help prevent trigger points from recurring. Trigger point pressure release therapy also works well. By applying pressure to muscle knots until they soften and release, this type of therapy can help retrain healthy muscles. While each of these natural remedies are beneficial on their own, a combination of CBD-infused products, meditation and exercise among other treatments can curtail myofascial trigger points before they appear.

Edie Horstman is a certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, wellness blogger and freelance writer. She works with health-focused brands, co-creating content in the digital marketing space. She lives in Denver, Colorado.