Pain is an unfortunate reality that we all come to know, especially when it comes to our muscles. If you have ever experienced persistent muscle pain and discomfort, you may have also found that many doctors are at a loss as to how to treat it. Do you know why so many health care providers, despite all their efforts, fail to relieve pain? The answer may lie in what the medical field calls “myofascial trigger points.” And the solution for many is called the trigger point massage.
While the name may not ring any bells, you are almost certainly familiar with this condition, as most people come to experience it at one point or another. According to research conducted by Dr. Janet Travell and Dr. David Simons, the authors of The Trigger Point Manual, trigger points play a role in nearly every condition and are the main cause in at least three out of every four cases.
This is why a trigger point massage is a form of therapy that everyone should explore. Good trigger point therapy can be difficult to find. This is because it is a complex practice and many practitioners overstate their knowledge and experience. The good news is that the trigger point massage is a treatment you can learn to do yourself, provided you know what you are doing.
If you are suffering from chronic pain or discomfort that is resistant to traditional treatments, read on to learn more about the relief the trigger point massage can bring to your life. It could very well be the solution that has been eluding your doctors.
Trigger points, which are about the size of mustard seeds, are also known as muscle knots. They are not literally knots, but rather areas in your soft tissue that are sensitive due to tightly contracted muscle. Trigger points are often overlooked in traditional medicine, despite their role in most cases of muscle pain and discomfort.
These tiny contraction “knots” known as trigger points arise in muscle and tissue whenever a body part is injured, overworked, or otherwise traumatized.
Oftentimes, we experience a harmful event, and our body instinctively compensates by changing our movement or posture. This thereby imbalances the pressure we place on our different muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints.
In some cases, trigger points are the result of tissue pollution in the form of waste metabolites.
Here are some of the most common causes of trigger points:
Car accidents | Falls | Sport-related injuries | Work-related injuries | Strain from repetitive movements
Standing or sitting improperly for long periods of time | Emotional stress | Anxiety | Allergies
Nutritional deficiencies | Inflammation | Environmental toxins
Trigger points can form anywhere in the body with soft muscle tissue. The most common location for a trigger point is the quadratus lumborum (QL), a muscle in the lower back, right above the hips. However, they also commonly develop in the neck, jaw, elbow, wrist, shoulder, hip, knee, and ankle.
There are three major dangers of trigger points.
First and foremost, trigger points can cause pain and discomfort, even debilitating our posture and movement.
Second, trigger points can complicate and exacerbate existing pain conditions. This is often because our body compensates for the pain by shifting its balance and placing an abnormal strain on various muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints. Another common source of complication for this is that the tightly wound muscles of a trigger point can cut off blood flow to the region. This cycle of increasing discomfort and pain is called “metabolic crisis.”
Third, trigger points are notorious for their ability to mimic other pain problems. This makes it understandably difficult for many massage therapists, physical therapists, and physicians to correctly identify the source of their patients’ pain.
One common example of this hallmark feature of trigger points is carpal tunnel syndrome. Many people are misdiagnosed with carpal tunnel when the pain is actually the result of trigger points in an area of the armpit called the subscapularis. This process of a trigger point causing pain in another part of the body is known as “referred pain.”
Here are some of the common problems arising from trigger points:
Sciatica (pain affecting the back, hip, and outer side of the leg, often due to a herniated disc) | Chronic jaw pain, toothaches, and earaches | Sinusitis (inflammation of the sinuses) | Tinnitus (ringing in the ears) | Dizziness | A sore throat or a lump in the throat
Appendicitis pain | Fibromyalgia (widespread musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, and tenderness)
Everyone, at one point or another, suffers from trigger points whether they know it to be the cause of their discomfort or not. Anyone who has experienced muscle stiffness or persistent discomfort has already had trigger points.
Here are some of the symptoms that may indicate an issue with trigger points:
Muscle pain or tightness / Restriction of certain movements / Dizziness / Earaches / Sinusitis / Nausea / Heartburn
False heart pain / Heart arrhythmia / Genital pain / Numbness in extremities / Headaches (including migraines and cluster headaches) / Neck pain / Jaw pain / Lower back pain / Tennis elbow / Carpal tunnel syndrome
The trigger point massage works by applying deep and sustained pressure to areas of muscle tightness, pain, or discomfort. This induces a process called soft tissue release, which leads to increased blood flow, a reduction in muscle spasm, and the breakup of scar tissue.
In addition, soft tissue release aids in the removal of any buildup of toxic metabolic waste. It also gives rise to neurological release, a process that reduces pain signals to the brain and resets your neuromuscular system to its proper function.
How long it takes to get relief can vary depending on a number of factors.
First, it will depend on the length of time you have had the trigger point in question. Second, it will vary based on the number of trigger points you suffer from. Third, the speed of recovery can change according to the effectiveness of your current treatment. Lastly, and unsurprisingly, it will depend on how frequently and consistently you can administer or receive the treatment.