Muscle Knots - How Bad Are They and Best Mitigation Practices

Last night as I was torturing myself with the foam roller, I began to wonder how common excruciating muscle knots are - especially in the legs but also neck, shoulders, etc. In my case, I have some spots in my upper quads and on the outside of my upper legs that are hardly bearable when I roll them.

My question is: how much do the knots hinder performance, and can they ever be fully eliminated? Do the Pros that get daily massages from their soigneurs have these knots or does the regular attention keep them from manifesting?

I’ve heard the importance of rolling/stretching/massage talked about but can’t remember the benefits of doing so or, on the other hand, the consequences of not, quantified.

When I first got my foam roller I cried as the muscles hurt soooo bad. Never let it go that far again.

They can be eliminated.

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I have ridden for 5 years with a knot in each shoulder. The exact location would always bother me a lot on long rides, but i just “ignored” it during the ride. I’ve been getting deep tissue massages last couple of years, but could never get rid of those knots. I actually just told myself that the knots were always going to be there.

Then during my last massage, my masseuse recommended cupping. Best recommendation ever. Made my riding so much more enjoyable. In one session, the cupping got rid of both knots and i no longer have that pain on my rides. If deep tissue doesn’t remove your knots, try cupping as it can get deeper.


I think this question would be best posed to the upcoming “secret podcast guest” in San Francisco.

He would say that pain is common but not “normal.” They do restrict movement, and if you can take a deep breath and flex hard on the roller, then do your breath to exhale fully as you relax that muscle, it can help. It’s really hard to get your muscle to completely relax under pressure, but if you repeat that, you can get better at it, and get closer to “unknotting”

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Have you tried a massage? A real massage, one w a masseuse that knows athletes?

I found one years ago through other cyclists. She is amazing, but requires an hour drive each way. I tried one my Chiro recommends but was very disappointed. No more cheating for me!

You are at a point where you are looking at lots of work to help your legs. But it will be worth it.

Good idea. Where do you submit podcast questions?

I’ve had plenty of massages but never a real cyclist specific sports massage. And this was really my question; could the right professional get rid of the knots or are they just a part of athletic life?

Thanks for the tip. Now to find a good masseuse in the San Diego area.

A month later, how are you doing with your knot? I’m asking cause I know I’ve had them in the past and they usually go away and were always just an annoyance. This Tuesday just past, I woke up with one that was shooting pain down my arm, almost like I slept on my arm. I pushed through the workout Tuesday, it subsided the more I worked out, did some yoga, neck and shoulder specific. Wednesday it continued, Thursday I took the day off the bike and couple hours in the morning, I left work early to visit the DR. Everything was good and he told me what I already knew, a knot that was causing pressure on nerves, causing the symptoms in my arm. Prescribed nsaid’s and muscle relaxers which did nothing. Friday I did a massage, that was brutal as movement was limited and she was kind of rough but I’ve never done one before. My wife suggested her and warned me she’s not mellow. She really worked the knots in the shoulder, it’s still here, didn’t magically go away. I do believe I’m mildly bruised as my neck and shoulder is tender. I’m going to stay off the bike till Tuesday. I wanted to do a 5 minute meditation Monday and if not sore, foam roller. I’ve stayed away from the foam roller since the message, yesterday since everything is sore. I thought about going back next weekend, maybe try the cups. Maybe in the future, once this works out, I should go once a month since I’m riding six days a week with yoga six days a week. I still have slight tingling in my finger tips, that’s how bad this got. I’m curious everyone’s experiences, how bad it’s gotten, how long to go back to normal, any time you’ve taken off the bike. Thanks

Highly recommend cupping. Only thing that removed 2 knots in my shoulders, even after 5-6 massages. It works so well for me that I purchased my own cupping kit and now do it myself regularly.

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I get knots / really tight muscles in the calves occasionally, and when I do, it messes with my knees and riding. So from my N=1 experience, yes, muscle knots do adversely affect training / performance.

What works for me is staying on top of foam rolling (at least 4x week). And when I don’t, a good sports / deep tissue massage is the only thing that fixes it and gets me riding normally again.

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The explanation you are given is anatomically incorrect. If you have pain shooting down your arm, you have compression of a nerve root as it exits the cervical spine. If a knot or other muscular issue is affecting a nerve along it’s pathway, you then experience numbness and or tingling. No amount of muscle work will resolve nerve root compression, you display relatively common neck related pain and you need a physical therapist.