Help my knotted back
February 22, 2006 9:02 PM   Subscribe

The muscle in the left side of my upper back, just below the shoulder blade, is always getting pulled and knotted. How do I manage it properly?

I went to the chiropractor about a year ago and it turns out that I have a slight S curve in my back. Nothing's painful or anything, however I always seem to get that knotted, pulled muscle feeling in the left side of my upper back, just below the shoulder blade. It usually flares up when I've been sitting with incorrect posture, or lying down all twisted, and happens at least once a week, and lasts for about 3 days each flare up. It doesn't really hurt, it's just annoying and makes me want to press right in the spot with my fingers all the time. The muscle that I press feels like a hard piece of thick string. Getting a massage on it feels really good.

Also, the chiropractor didn't really give me a good explanation on the relation between my curved spine and the knotted muscle, just a whole bunch of mumbo jumbo about nerves being pinched and sending less signals around my body or something.

So, apart from, never having bad posture, or never lying down twisted, is there anything else that I can do to avoid the flare-ups? And is there anything I should do when it does flare up?
posted by Jase_B to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Try this book The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook combined with a device called the Theracane... these two things have literally changed my life with respect to shoulder pain.
posted by peppermint22 at 9:24 PM on February 22, 2006

Jae_B, I have the exact same problem in the very same place. So far, the only thing that's ever helped is consistent exercise, especially yoga - at least 4 times a week.

Predictably, it's the consistent part that fails me, every time...
posted by Space Kitty at 9:53 PM on February 22, 2006

It sounds totally off-the-wall but for the past few months I was having awful back problems, which began with the muscles just below the blade and moved on to being diagnosed as slipped disk (tho I'm doubtful), and what cured me was the supplement "turmeric force." Before I took it I was in great pain and found eight hours of desk work only manageable by doing the last few on my knees. I spent a long weekend horizontal, zonked on vicodin, and began the turmeric at the same time. By Tuesday I was functional again.

I would never have tried it except that a friend insisted it had cured her back problems. It still sounds unlikely to me, but maybe it's worth a try for you?

I also made changes with my sitting, now using chairs which don't put any pressure on my shoulder blades -- especially not upward pressure.

Good luck; back pain can be crippling.
posted by anadem at 10:29 PM on February 22, 2006


Ditch 'em. Fucking quacks.

Find yourself a Registered Massage Therapist.

For real, actual, serious problems, you should check in with a kinesiologist. The RMT (at least, a Canadian trained one) can refer you to a dedicated professional, if they think you need it.
posted by PurplePorpoise at 10:37 PM on February 22, 2006

I have the same problem. It seems my rather large and heavy head causes part of the problem, bad posture the other, but I've found that lying in bed partially propped up aggravates it. This is a problem since I read in bed a lot.

Solutions? I agree with Space Kitty, if I work out regularly, it keeps it in check. Yoga also helps, but can be very painful until it unknots.

I also have a wonderful accupuncturist, but this is in KTM. She does an electric stimulation thingy, I had to go three days a week for several months, but it seems to help. Accupuncture is also effective for managing the pain.
posted by AArtaud at 12:28 AM on February 23, 2006

Big time second for the Theracane. Looks strange but it's an awesome device that everyone who tries becomes addicted to.
posted by Manjusri at 12:49 AM on February 23, 2006

I'm fond of the Tennis Ball Technique.
posted by xyzzy at 3:58 AM on February 23, 2006

The S curve in your back is putting extra stress on on that muscle. Nothing to do with pinched nerves or anything else. It's simple end of the muscle is attached to the spine, and if the spine isn't straight, the muscle is stretched farther than is comfortable, and is more susceptible to getting hurt. The only real way to relieve that stress is to straighten the curve. If the curve is caused by a muscle imbalance, it's fairly easy to fix -- see a physical therapist (referral from a medical doc, as many chiros see PTs as competitors). If it's a structural problem, it may take a little more work.

Preventing flareups is a matter of not twisting your back (sit up straight, try not to lay down all twisty) and strengthening/balancing the muscles in your back and abdomen. Both the Theracane and the Tennis Ball technique work well to relieve flareups. (I found the Theracane to be a little too sharp for my knots, but it may work for you.) You may also want to try alternating heat and ice on the knot.
posted by jlkr at 8:15 AM on February 23, 2006

I get muscle spasms just below my left shoulderblade that are clearly stress-related. I work on doing relaxation exercises, take hot baths/showers, take it easy for a few days, and take half a valium at bedtime. Valium is a good muscle relaxer, and a few days of this will ease the muscle spasm.

General fitness will go a long way to help you avoid recurrences.
posted by theora55 at 9:37 AM on February 23, 2006

I call this my stress muscle (only mine is on the right side). Ice really makes things heal up fast - my doc explained that when you apply ice you force the body to pump a lot of blood thru the area to keep it warm, and that helps clear out the lactic acid in the sore muscle. 10 minutes of ice, followed by a firm but not pulling 30 second stretch, followed by more ice and stretch. This cuts my healing time in half.
posted by selfmedicating at 10:10 AM on February 23, 2006

Just FYI, I had this on and off for years, and recently found out the disk between C 6-7 has collapsed, which they tell me was what was causing it. You may (or not) want to get this looked at, but if it gets worse over time, don't ignore it.

Most of the things that make this feel better are "ischemic compression", which is what the folks who know more than I do call it.
posted by unrepentanthippie at 9:17 AM on February 26, 2006

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