Can Massaging a Knot Make it Worse? [Interesting Facts]

Knot massage is intended to give you relief from the painful tender points in your muscles, but people receiving massage therapy for knots might not immediately feel relief because of many reasons. This leads many people to the conclusion that the massage has made the knots more painful for them.

This certainly is not true!

All you need is to wait for the long-term effects of massage therapy.

In rare cases, massaging a knot can actually make it worse, but that’s only when the massage is done in the wrong way.

To give a better idea of why a knot massage feels like it’s worsening your condition, I will explain two basic concepts related to the cellular mechanism of knot formation, and the effects of massage on that.

You will also learn about some of the mistakes during knot massage that can make your pain even worse.

Massaging a knot doesn’t make it worse: Here is Why

Some mechanical factors as well as chemical changes inside the muscle fibers occurring in response to those mechanical disturbances are responsible for the formation of knots in your muscles.

Physical strains like overuse injury, sudden loading, overstretching, or strong muscle contraction without warmup result in cellular changes in the muscle fibers. When your muscles become fatigued due to overuse, there is an excess of lactic acid accumulation after which your muscle can’t contract effectively.

Other than that the oxygen level falls, your muscle doesn’t get enough energy and there is calcium accumulation in response to any sudden muscle activity. The calcium doesn’t let your muscle relax properly forming muscle soreness, which if not resolved can convert into muscle knots after a prolonged period of shortness.

This is the point when pain and movement problems begin.

Massaging a knot doesn’t make it worse

After you get a knot massage, regularly, all these changes are reversed. Massaging your muscle increases the blood flow to the muscles which replenish the depleted oxygen levels.

However, right after massaging knots using intense techniques, you might feel a slight resistance to stretch and a dull ache in the area which makes you feel as if massaging the knot has made it worse for you.

You need to understand that, knot massage increases the local inflammatory response shortly after the massage sessions. The area of massage might appear red and warm to the touch.

This inflammatory response is an essential component of healing because with inflammation the blood flow to the area increases bringing more oxygen to the muscles that make the knots softer as well as promote healing of the injured tissues.

What can make a muscle knot worse?

The above mechanisms are a part of the healing process and the tenderness, warmth, or resistance to movement after a deep massage will stay for 24 to 48 hours after the knot massage.

But some mistakes during knot massage can actually make your condition worse.

Here are the things to avoid while performing a knot massage:

  • Massaging deep knots without relaxing the superficial muscles.
  • Massaging an area for knots without locating the exact location of the knot or making sure if a knot is actually present or not.
  • Applying overpressure to a knot using a self-massaging technique.
  • Not stretching your muscles after knot massage.
  • Overstretching a muscle after knot massage.
  • Not showing up for follow-up sessions and assuming that the first session has made your condition worse because of the soreness and inflammatory responses.


Knot massage does not make the knots any worse, it rather helps them heal properly. The misconception about knot massage arises because of the immediate inflammatory response after a single massage session that makes people suspicious about their decision of availing knot massage therapy.

The fact is that once the soreness is resolved all the toxic chemicals are washed out and pain reduces as healing progresses.

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