What is Trigger Point Therapy?
Maybe your neck hurts from staring at your phone. Or your back feels sore from an intense weekend workout after a week behind the desk. Or your arms feel heavy and your head throbs. It might not be what you think it is. It might not be sciatica, a common assumption. The source of the pain and discomfort likely are trigger points, which can be treated easily to provide relief.
Myofascial Trigger point therapy isn’t a massage in the traditional sense. It is a modality that directly deals with pain and dysfunction in the body caused by Myofascial pain. Myofascial refers to muscle tissue and the connective tissue that is in and all around it. Muscles and fascia are not separate entities. They work together. When this becomes stressed and injured, trigger points can form and cause contraction that results in pain and tightness and a reduction in range of motion.
Trigger points are hypersensitive taut bands within the muscle fibers. There are active and latent trigger points. Active trigger points refer or produce a person’s referred pain or symptom pattern that is in their direct experience. Latent trigger points produce a local or referred unrecognized pain and are only painful when palpated.
Trigger points in the lateral, anterior and posterior hip can cause symptoms frequently described as sciatica. Sciatica is a general, umbrella term for pain going down the leg. It is often mistaken for a diagnosis. “Sciatica” in our experience is most often caused by trigger points. Frozen shoulder is not a diagnosis, it is a description of what is happening in the shoulder. It’s not moving. Your muscles aren’t moving it, but what in both these cases is the true underlying problem?
Dr. Janet Travell and Dr. David Simons produced two comprehensive manuals chronicling the referred pain patterns of their patients first published in 1983 also known as the “trigger point bible”. Dr Janet Travell was President John F. Kennedy’s personal physician. She explained trigger points to the First World Congress on pain in 1975: “When injured, most tissues heal, but skeletal muscles ‘learn’; they readily develop habits of guarding that limit movement and impair circulation. Chronic pain, stiffness, and dysfunction of muscles result.”
Trigger points are the most overlooked causes of pain. It can be difficult to believe that muscles can cause such debilitating and chronic pain but often the results of trigger point therapy speak for themselves. Sometimes two or three treatments can eliminate the pain and bring the muscles back to full functionality. Sometimes it takes longer especially if the pain has been present for a long period of time.
Trigger points can form for many reasons. Slouching at your desk for five days a week often leads to hand, neck and arm pain. If you suddenly partake in a strenuous athletic activity after slouching at your desk all week you can shock the muscles into developing trigger points.
Emotional stress can cause your trapezius muscle to overload and before you know it you have debilitating headaches and can’t turn your head to look behind you.
Trigger points not only produce pain but can produce numbing, sharp, heavy sensations. Maybe your arms feel heavy or you feel like you are dragging your leg around or there is tingling in the tips of your fingers. Trigger points can cause all of these sensations. Forward head posture is a current epidemic as everyone is looking down at their phones and for young people it is a posture that is setting them up for trigger points in the future.
Trauma or accidents can create trigger points that aren’t immediately recognized as the causative factor. Left untreated they can become chronic and develop into a cascade of trigger points that lead to expensive and needless surgeries that all too often create more trigger points. Trigger points can also mimic visceral pain, pain coming from internal organs. Appendicitis pain can come from the appendix or even trigger points in the rectus abdominis muscle mimicking appendicitis.
Our bodies are one unit, not separate parts unknown to each other. Maybe you had knee surgery and now you are scheduled for hip surgery. The knee will do what the hip and feet tell it to do. The feet, the knee, the hip, the shoulders, the head position all are related to one another. The correct muscles are not moving the bones to the correct places. The body is a master at compensating for injuries or disuse.
It is good to remember that muscles move bones. So many surgeries are done on bones but muscles and nerves move them. Your bones don’t move on their own, your brain tells your muscles to contract and relax and that is what moves the bones. Sometimes it is something so obvious that it is overlooked and some of the medical profession’s treatment of bones is that they are a separate entity. Treat the muscles effectively and the bones move.
Understanding where your pain is felt is a key factor in determining which muscles are causing it. Low back pain can come from abdominal muscles, hand and arm pain can come from a multitude of the shoulder and neck muscles. A good evaluation is important in determining the source of your pain.
Your treatment will consist of some percussion massage and manual compression, as well as being asked to contract and relax your muscles. You will determine your treatment pressure by informing the practitioner of your level of comfort. An open dialogue is essential in the process. Oftentimes the first treatment is light pressure and as the trigger points release more pressure can be applied. It is important to breathe smoothly and try to relax as much as possible throughout your treatment.
Self care is an important factor in speeding up the healing process. We recommend you do a couple of treatments a day on yourself. This helps you get well at an accelerated pace and it is self-empowering to be able to treat yourself. Often, this requires a few inexpensive tools. A tennis ball in a sock, an eraser, a small bouncy ball or a larger softball can all do the trick depending on the problem.
Stretching is an important aspect of your treatment once the trigger points have released. Sometimes the hardest task is to temporarily cut back on the activity that contributed to the problem in the first place. Any strengthening needed is the last aspect of treatment. You wouldn’t play an injured football player or run an injured racehorse and you don’t want to attempt to strengthen an injured muscle until trigger points are released, contrary to a lot of treatment options available in the medical field.
You may schedule an appointment below or call: 219-218-2378