What causes neck knots?
Let’s talk about those “knots” in your neck and what to do about them.
I’m going to spare ya’ll the science to jump to the greatest hits about what they *probably* are and ways to address them.
First, I think it’s important for you to know that you don’t have actual knots in your muscles. What you’re feeling when you massage a “knot” is a tension pattern that is dictated by your nervous system, so while rubbing it may feel good, you’re not actually flattening your muscles like playdough. Our bodies are a lot more complicated.
It’s also worth noting that when we dig into muscles (or when a overzealous albeit well meaning massage therapist digs into said area) and we feel a “knot,” sometimes we’ve actually created that experience by digging.
How might this happen?
Because your nervous system is smart and when it feels something driving into it – be it a ball or an elbow – it creates tension at that area to protect you. Hence, why it feels jumpy/ouchy/tight AND why sometimes you might feel worse after digging into or yanking on an area that already hurt.
So with that little bit of info out of the way, let’s discuss what can you do to address the experience of a tight / sore / knotty neck, because while knots don’t technically exist, the discomfort is real!
How to get rid of neck knots
Move your spine in lots of directions! A lot of the time our neck feels tight because our spine is stiff AF. Increasing your spinal mobility can make your neck feel better.
Eye drills. Your eyes dictate where your head goes. There’s a bunch of fancy brain science that goes into this, but in short, most of us only look at things up close ::cough cough computer screens:: and this can cause neck tension and less than optimal vision patterns.
My friend Isabelle Barter is a wealth of knowledge on vision and how it relates to pain, movement, and overall health, so if you want to learn more, here’s the link to her website where you can join her list. I know she’s creating some free resources on this, so that’s the best way to make sure you don’t miss them!
Work on upper body stability + strength. When your upper body is strong, you’ll often feel less tension in your neck. Go figure.
Targeted gentle stretching? This is a maybe and I have mixed feelings about it, because for some folks it may feel good and alleviate pain and for others it may make them feel worse.
In all of these cases, use your best judgement and when it doubt, you probably don’t want to dig into or yank on joints – especially ones that hurt. This includes your neck! And if things feel really ouchy, talk to a medical professional.
Finally, if you want some specific exercises that may help your neck feel better or less knotty, check out this video.
Exercises to get rid of knots in your neck
Want some simple ways to troubleshoot upper body tension?