There is nothing quite so frustrating as going about your daily business when suddenly a stab of shooting pain radiates through your neck and into your shoulder and back. You grimace as you go about your work or run your errands, trying to ignore the constant ache that does not seem to abate. You may find yourself poking at the source of pain in your neck, turning your head from side to side to see if it makes any difference.

Many of us have dealt with the discomfort brought about by knots in neck, suffering from the constant distraction of pain. Perhaps you sit at work all day bent over a keyboard, slept in an odd position, or strained a muscle playing your favorite sport. Whatever the case may be, it is important to understand what these knots are, how to recognize the symptoms, and how to work to relieve the pain they cause. We put together a list of 5 simple ways to dissolve the knots in your neck, enabling you to go through your day pain-free and clear-headed.

What Is a Knot in the Neck?

Inflamed and Sore Muscles

One of the chief causes behind knots in neck is inflammation. Being too sedentary or too overactive can result in tension and irritation building up in your neck. Knots in neck are essentially solid, highly tender muscles that tense up and contract repeatedly. Even when the muscles in your neck are at rest, these knots can build over time from strenuous activities, inactivity, and even bad posture.

Inflammation in your neck can also be caused by direct injury. Whatever the cause, the inflammation works to cause exceedingly irritated, sensitive spots on your neck which are sore to the touch and feel like palpable knots beneath your skin.

Source of Pain

myofascial trigger points

In more succinct terms, knots in neck are minute muscle areas that have bump-like features and cause anywhere from great to mild discomfort when you touch them. The professional medical description of these knots is called myofascial trigger points. The term refers to knots throughout the body but applies to the neck area as well.

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Essentially, the knots develop as muscle fibers grow too taut and inflexible. Developing just about anywhere, knots in neck may not be immediately apparent at the surface of your skin. Rather, you could find yourself pressing deep into your neck tissue to try to determine the sources of the pain. A good way to discern whether you have located the knot is if you experience any palpable muscle twitches or spasms when pressing upon a specific area.

Alternatively, you may find yourself gently poking around to try to ascertain where the pain is coming from, and land upon a highly sensitive area that causes shooting pains up your head, down your neck and shoulders, and into your back. You may have landed upon the location of the knot itself or one of the sensitive areas that causes the knots to react and release spurts of pain.

What Are the Symptoms of Knots in Neck?

Trigger Points

There are some key symptoms of knots in neck to look out for if you are trying to determine what kind of pain you are dealing with and how to best treat it. Trigger points are the areas sensitive to the touch caused by knots in neck. Touching or pressing on them can send shooting pains outwards from the neck. If you press on a specific tender area and find that it radiates the pain outwards, you may very likely have knots in your neck.

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There are two different types of trigger points, known as active and latent. Active trigger points are the actual muscle knots which are sensitive to the touch and cause pain around the area when pressed. Latent trigger points normally do not cause discomfort unless you actually press on them, but may activate if irritated by too much muscle strain, exhaustion, sickness, or stress. Therefore, it is important to remember that even if you do not feel immediate pain unless pressing on a specific area, you may still have defined knots in your neck.

Trigger points for knots in neck can be caused and aggravated by repeated injury and overexertion, ongoing periods lifting anything heavy or straining, bad posture, muscle tension caused by emotional distress, and actual injuries from events like a sports accident or fall. Additionally, having too little activity such as sitting for long periods of time or being on bed rest can cause these tender trigger points. If you have experienced any of these circumstances or similar, and find tender areas or ongoing aches in your neck and the surrounding area, you may very likely have knots that need to be dealt with.

Reflective Pain

reflective pain

Another key symptom of knots in neck is what is known as reflective pain. Directly tied to trigger points, pressing on a sensitive area may cause pain to other parts of your body, including your neck, head, shoulder, back, and down the spine.

Even if you do not experience much pain in a potential trigger area itself, if pressing on a certain part of your neck that feels stiff or tense causes you to suddenly feel discomfort in another area of your body, you very likely have a knot or knots in your neck. Upon pressurizing that trigger point, you are putting added force on points of muscle tissue that are usually more dense and tauter than they would otherwise be. Those tight areas of muscle can spread outward, and result in multiple triggers within a small area of tissue. Thus, pressing on them can cause the pain to reflect outside of the point of impact.

Getting Rid of Knots in Neck

Chin to Chest

chin to chest stretch

There are a number of stretches and methods you can use at home to alleviate knots in neck. If the condition persists, however, you may need to consult a doctor for further treatment.

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The first stretch only takes a short time to complete and is a great way to loosen up the muscles in your neck. Begin by bending your neck until your chin lightly taps your chest. Keep your shoulders straight and hold yourself in place for about 15 to 20 seconds. You should feel a light tug on the back of your neck as you do so.

Side to Side

Side to Side

A second easy stretch you can do yourself in the comfort of your home requires you to turn your head to one side of your neck, much like if you were going to be looking over your shoulder. You should feel a tug along both sides of your neck as you do so and hold the stretch for 15 to 20 seconds. Repeat on both sides as needed.

Along the same lines, you can tip your head so that your ear almost touches your shoulder, while maintaining straight posture at all times. As with the previous stretch, hold this position for 15 to 20 seconds after you feel a tug along both sides of your neck. Repeat on the other side.

Arm to Shoulder

Next, we have another short exercise that can offer a great way to extend your muscles and loosen tension surrounding knots in neck. Using one arm, reach to the back of your shoulder and lightly press against the back of your head.

You should feel your neck stretching as you maintain this posture. Hold the stretch in place from 15 to 20 seconds and repeat. You can move your head to the other side and bend it gently forward to fully stretch both sides of your neck.



Actually massaging the trigger point itself can be an excellent, non-strenuous way to work through some of tight muscles and find relief. Once you have identified a trigger point, rub it gently to try and loosen the knot. In between massages, try using an ice pack or heating pad to gently tranquilize the tender area.

If you are not sure where you should massage, you can easily identify your trigger point by running your hand over your neck to identify any actual lumps or highly sensitive points. Once you have found the right spot, carefully press on it until you can feel the pain resulting from the knot. Press and release very gently to unleash some of the tension, stretching as you go along to ensure you do not aggravate the area.

Stretch in a Corner

Our last tip to offer you relief from knots in neck is another short exercise which can provide palpable alleviation of your discomfort. Find a corner in your home and face it, standing about 2 feet away with your feet placed together.

Raise your forearms and touch your elbows to the wall, making sure they are just slightly below shoulder level. Carefully lean forward as far as you can without pain, and stretch in place from 30 to 60 seconds at a time. You should feel a pull in your shoulders, chest, and the base of your neck.


Finding relief from knots in neck can be a frustrating process that requires patience, repeated stretches, and massages to ease. Each of the stretches we named will only take a few minutes out of your day and could do you a world of good as you seek to remedy your pain and enhance your quality of life. Taking a few minutes to relieve the stress and tension that gathers in your neck will do wonders to revitalize your outlook and mindset.

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