Shoulder Knot Massage – How to Get Rid of Knots in Shoulder and Arm?

Does your shoulder hurt when you move your arm?

Is there a cracking or clicking sound in your shoulder when you catch a ball or use a power tool?

Does your arm hurt but you can tell why? Are you suspecting a serious injury?

Before assuming anything else, you will be relieved to know that all these symptoms can be due to muscle knots that can be treated with a few sessions of knot massage therapy.

The pain due to muscle knots in your shoulders and arms can be misunderstood as arthritis, tendon injury, or joint injury. However, it is not wise to reach any conclusion without proper examination.

You need to get a qualified therapist or health professional to diagnose the problem for you before jumping into any treatments.

Here is more about why knots are formed in your shoulder and arm, how does it feel like, and what should you expect from a knot massage by a professional therapist.

What Causes Knots in Shoulders and Upper Arm?

1. One knot in front of the shoulder

The muscle in front of your shoulder (anterior deltoid) works to raise your arm forward. So if your work involves the constant or repetitive forward raising of your arm, then these muscles can get short over time and ultimately you have muscle knots.

2. One knot at the back of the shoulder

The muscles at the back of your shoulder (posterior deltoid) work to pull your arm backward. Knots are formed in this region with repeated activities that involve reaching behind your back or pulling.

3. Four knots at the sides of the shoulder

This bulk of muscles (lateral deltoids) helps you raise your arm to the side. So knots are formed due to the over-exhaustion of these muscles.

4. Two knots at the front of the arm

These knots are formed in the bicep muscle that bends your arm at the elbow when you lift a weight in hand. The knots are in the middle of the arm inside the muscle belly.

5. Three knots at the back of the arm

These knots are formed in the tricep muscle that straightens your arm when reaching out to pick something. Two of these knots are formed in the upper part at the back of the arm just close to the armpit. One knot is formed at the outer side of the upper arm.

How To Prevent Shoulder Knots?

Here is a list of activities to avoid because they can lead to the formation of muscle knots in your shoulder and upper arm.

  • Athletic activities like swimming, playing ball, lifting weights, or skiing because all these activities involve repeated arm movement that can overstain your muscles.
  • Working with heavy tools
  • Typing on a keyboard placed at a height
  • Jobs that require reaching forward, backward, or sideways repeatedly.
  • Carrying a baby in your arms for a prolonged time
  • Using crutches
  • Working or small hand movements without elbow support
  • Repeated screwdriving
  • Repeated bending and straightening of the arm as in pushing or pulling tasks

Other than these activities, knots in other muscle groups nearby can also send pain in the shoulder as a result of which, you might also develop knots in your shoulder.

What Do Knots in Your Shoulder Feel Like?

You will experience either one or a combination of the following symptoms if you have muscle knots in your shoulder region and upper arm.

  • Pain during lifting your arm in any direction
  • Weakness of your arm
  • Pain in the shoulder with stretching
  • Clicking sound while shouldering and arm movements
  • Pain in the back of the arm and forearm region
  • Tenderness and diffused pain near the elbow

How To Differentiate If Shoulder Pain is Due to Knots in the Shoulder Or Arm?

If you have shoulder pain with arm movements or shoulder movements, and the pain is localized or at a specific point that you can pinpoint, then your pain is due to muscle knots in the shoulder.

Whereas, pain radiating to the shoulder region from knots in other regions like the neck or upper back will remain constant and does not increase or decrease with shoulder and arm movements.

Knots in the arm give a diffused pain and you can really tell exactly where the pain is. With knots in the upper arm, you don’t hear the clicking sound that is there with shoulder knots.

This differentiation is a mark to help your therapist understand if you need knot massage in your shoulder, arm, or other regions as well.

How to Get Rid of Knots in Shoulder Blade and Upper Arm?

Your therapist first locates and then massages the knots using different techniques.

Here are the steps to follow during knot massage for shoulder muscles.

How to Get Rid of Knots in Shoulder Blade and Upper Arm?
  1. The client should be in a sitting position while the therapist assesses the deltoid muscle bulk around the shoulder.
  2. The therapist palpates the front, back, and side of the shoulder using three fingers to locate any knots.
  3. For massaging knots on the outer side of the shoulder, the client assumes a side-lying position with the shoulder being treated on top.
  4. The therapist uses his thumb to apply direct pressure over the knots slowly increasing the pressure and moving the thumb in small circular motions.
  5. For massaging knots on the front of the shoulder, the client lies straight facing up, and for knots at the back of the shoulder, the client lies facing down.
  6. The therapist grabs the bulk of muscle between fingers and thumb, while the thumb just over the knot and applies the ischemic compression method by squeezing or tightening the grip of the fingers and thumb.
  7. Pressure is applied for 20 to 30 seconds and then the therapist releases the pressure for a few seconds and reapplies it. This process called ischemic compression or direct pressure method is repeated 5 to 6 times for each knot.
  8. For massaging knots in the arm, the client is lying straight facing up for releasing knots at the front and facing down for knots at the back with the arm resting on the treatment table.
  9. The therapist applies firm pressure over the muscle belly with his fingers and drags the fingers in an upward direction towards the shoulder. This method is called the stripping technique of knot massage.

How To Get a Knot Out of Your Shoulder by Yourself?

Once you get rid of the pain after a few sessions of knot massage by a therapist, there is still a chance of those knots to reoccur after some time.

That’s why you need to apply these self-massage techniques at home to increase the effect of knot massage and prevent its recurrence.

  1. For shoulder knots, take a massage ball, and hold it between your shoulder just over the knots and a wall.
  2. Press your shoulder against the ball to apply ischemic compression to the knots and roll your shoulder over the massage ball in small circles to massage the knots.
  3. For knots in the arm, you can use a foam roller or massage roller against a desk or wall to massage the knots out of the muscle bellies.
  4. Repeat the process for 2 minutes for each knot.
  5. Stretch the muscle afterward.


Knots in the shoulder give you localized pain and clicking in the joint that might be confused with other conditions, so you need expert opinion and help to assess and diagnose the real problem.

The ischemic compression method works best for massaging knots of the deltoid muscle in the shoulder whereas the stripping technique is best for muscles in the arm. Don’t forget to self-massage the muscle at home to prevent the formation of knots.

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