What causes “knots” or muscle spasms in your upper back and shoulder?

A knot is a contraction or spasm in the muscle.  The most common cause is over-work.  It’s not necessarily that YOU are doing too much work 🙂 but you are overworking some of your muscles.

Those muscles get protective.  To protect themselves and prevent injury or ripping, they go into a type of contraction.  There are different types of contractions.

What is a “contraction”?

Make a fist with your hand.  Your hand gets tight and loses color.  That is a good example of a muscle contraction.

If you can “pump up” your bicep or upper arm muscle between your elbow and shoulder, that is another example of a contraction.

There is less blood flowing through the contracted muscle.  The muscle feels tight in that area or feels like a “knot” or hard.  A muscle spasm, contraction or knot are basically all the same.

And they can hurt or burn.  They can be extremely annoying and make it hard to work or sleep.

The good news is:  Muscles are almost always to blame and muscles are treatable.  You just have to know which muscles to work on and how to prevent the knots in your shoulder and back from returning.


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2 Comments on What Causes Muscle Spasms In Your Shoulder

  1. Matt says:

    I’m having disabling pain in upper back area with spasms and severe pain. What can I do to extol thus pain?

  2. Hi Matt,

    My first thought is ice. Use cold packs to help reduce the pain and bring in more circulation.

    If you have had this for more than 2 or 3 days, you can use cold packs alternated with heat packs. If you don’t have cold packs, bags of frozen peas or ice in zip-lock baggies works.

    An antiinflammatory like Aleve can help. If you take something like that, keep it in your system.

    The problem MAY be in the upper back OR it may be coming from the sides of your back under your armpits or the muscles on the sides of your neck. Try to put yourself into the most comfortable position that you can rest in and rest.

    Maybe you had a hard sneeze and threw your head forward? Or perhaps you ‘slept wrong?’ If it’s new pain, it will probably go away by 5 days just by using these suggestions.

    The cause of upper back pain is USUALLY muscles or other soft tissue. Muscles can pull your bones out of place when they are in spasm. When the muscles relax, the bones and disks can go back into place.

    Do simple, little, easy movements of your upper body, shoulder blades, arms, neck, head. Easy, little movements will help keep the circulation going and help remind the muscles that they can move again when the pain subsides. I’m talking tiny, so you barely know that you are moving various parts. Tiny movements.

    I hope this helps, Matt, and I believe you are on the road to recovery. Let me know.

    Kathryn Merrow
    The Pain Relief Coach