How to fix a knot in your back

pt HealthMassage Therapy

If you have any kind of job that involves staying in a sitting position for long periods of time, then chances are you have experienced the “knot”, a muscle tension that feels like it’s sitting right under your shoulder blade, making it achy, burning and sore. You try to take a break and move around, but it doesn’t budge.

When you go home, you ask someone to try to massage the sensitive area, but they can’t find the right spot. You take a hot bath, maybe some Advil, but you can still feel it.  You dread the next work day because you know the knot will be coming to work with you tomorrow.

Am I describing something you’ve experienced?  If so, I have some remedies for you.

Understanding the knot: what is it?

There are a number of areas in the upper back that can become sore and irritated, but the one I am referring to involves trigger points in the rhomboid muscles. They lie between the shoulder blades and can become overstretched in postures that round the shoulders forward. Excessive sitting at a computer can tire out these muscles and they respond by becoming tight (the “knot”) and developing trigger points (hypersensitive areas of the muscle).

Can I prevent it?

Yes!  I’m sure you’ve been told this before, but it works: get moving! Static postures are not natural for the body. If you can take breaks, do so. Postural strengthening can also be an important tool to prevent rhomboid pain.

I’m experiencing pain, what can I do?

First, you need to understand where the problem comes from: your upper back has been overstretched and your rounded shoulders are causing pain.

Next, try this:

  • Step 1:  Stretch your chest!  This will relieve the strain that is being placed on those poor rhomboids.
  • Step 2:  Try a self-massage. All you need is a lacrosse or tennis ball.  Find an empty patch of wall, place the ball between your upper back and the wall and lean into it. You will soon find a sore spot that you can slowly push into, making small circles with the ball. Don’t overdo it! Those muscles are already cranky, so massaging too much or too hard will make matters worse.
  • Step 3:  Strengthen your upper back.  Some easy exercises you can do are seated rows and shoulder blade squeezes (where you try to pull your shoulder blades closer together).

As a registered massage therapist, I see this type of pain regularly.  Massage therapy is an excellent way to relieve pain and muscle tension for the rhomboids.  If you have a desk job and you’re regularly experiencing discomfort, try getting a massage. Massage therapists can also provide information on how you can prevent pain in the future.

If you’d like to schedule an appointment, find a pt Health clinic near you or book online.

This blog post originally appeared on and was written by Mark Ellis, Registered Massage Therapist at Active Physio Works – St. Albert Tudor Glen.


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