How To Release Knots In Your Back

Many of my clients complain of knots in their back; those aching, aggravating, tight spots that just never seem to go away. Perhaps you can relate.

Hours of sitting and typing at your desk is an invitation for those little spots of tension take up residence in your neck, shoulder and back. Unfortunately, workouts can do the same.

I encourage my clients to get massages on a regular basis to help relieve muscle tension and to release tight fascia and I recommend you do the same.

I’m also a big supporter of massages for the additional health benefits such as increased circulation, improved lymphatic function, stress relief, injury prevention…this list could go on but I’ll save that for another post.

If you’re stuck with an achey knot in your back and don’t have time for a massage here’s a trick  you can try.

How To Release Knots In Your Back

knots in back

Tennis Ball Massage

I use this trick throughout  the week to fight off the bundles of tension that live beneath my shoulder blades (teaching is not always easy on the body and scoliosis doesn’t help).


1. Lie on the floor and place a tennis ball between your back and the floor (place it under a muscle, not on a bone or your spine).

2. Lean into the ball and roll it up and down along the tight muscle/knot in your back.

3. When you feel a point of pressure (a knot) hold the ball and relax into it until you feel the knot release. Breathe as you do because it might feel quite intense!

You can increase or decrease the depth of the massage by how hard you lean into the ball.

For a less intense version, try leaning against a wall instead of lying on your back.

Travel Tip: Throw a tennis ball in the car on long road trips and use it by placing it between you back and the car seat to release knots while on the road. It works wonders!

I hope this trick brings you some relief. Remember, knots may not go away over night.

If you’re holding tension in your body day-after-day, they will keep coming back. Which means you have all the more reason to embrace a more balanced, stress-free lifestyle.

PS – you may also like 5 foam roller exercises to relieve shoulder tension and the “anti-computer” stretching & upper back series.

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10 thoughts on “How To Release Knots In Your Back”

  1. I have been living with back pain due to knots in the back muscles for about a year now. I tried physical therapy, and part of it was massages. It hasn’t gotten better, and the knots are multiplying to he point they are even appearing on toward the sides of my back. I have at least 10 knots – if not more. It takes a lot out of me to accomplish daily tasks as easy as taking a shower or lifting my purse onto the table. I plan to try the tennis ball technique to see if it will help. I really hope it does because I would really like to get my normal life back.

  2. grant nicholas

    I have used a golf ball. Was told by a chiropractor to use a lacosse ball. It is bigger than a golf ball and hard rubber so it moves better to the right Spot. Was also told by the gal that gives me massages to use hot and cold rocks

  3. I used to have that problem (tight knots on my upper back that moved up my neck and down my lower back). This is caused by bad posture and too much sitting and working on the computer. And yes, exercise compounded the pain and spread it to my neck and head. I tried chiropractic adjustment, acupuncture, Myotherapy, deep tissue/swedish massage, hot bath, etc… Nothing works; the tight knots stayed put. Then my massage therapist told me to try Pilates… I needed beginner’s basic movements to train my core muscles. I bought a small book “Pro-Roller Pilates Essentials.” It has clear pictures and instructions. And I bought the foam roller too. It’s been four weeks now training daily on this foam roller and getting chiropractic adjustment twice a week. My back is relaxing, the tight knots are gone, and I sleep better at night. Note: the foam roller is pricey – but it’s worth it to align the spine to its natural state. Hope this helps. All the Best! 🙂

  4. I was traveling quite a bit for work over the past few months and my massage therapist actually recommended the same thing. I now keep the tennis ball in my car just for that reason

  5. what kind of specific massage do you think would be the most effective?

    I have a huge knot for months now on my lower back and its painful to sit or bend 🙁

  6. I have had back pain due to knots for two years now and I just can’t get rid of them. It feels like I have tried everything. I also feel like some of these are not appropriate for my age (11). I am planning to try this I have my hopes high.

  7. I suffer from severe knots in my shoulders from the bottom to the top up to my neck and the back of my head I know they are stress related but they cause migraines when they get bad The only thing that helps get rid of them for a little while is lidocain injections my doctor gives me its usually about 10 injections the ones in the back of the head are a little uncomfortable but you feel instant relief and a couple massages with a golf ball or I ask my girlfriend to dig her elbow in my shoulders and neck usually helps good luck…

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