TRIGGER POINTS (TrP’s) are actually very common and can occur within any muscle of the body. Patients of mine who have trigger points often report persistent, chronic pain that results in a decreased range of motion of that particular muscle.
The most common muscles affected are in the head and neck area, which can lead to symptoms such as headaches, jaw pain, ringing in the ear(s), and even eye pain.
“The daily clinical experience of thousands of massage therapists, physical therapists, and physicians strongly indicates that most of our common aches and pains — and many other puzzling physical complaints are actually caused by trigger points, or small contraction knots, in the muscles of the body.”
~ Clair Davies
What exactly IS a Trigger Point? How is it different than a knotted muscle?
A TRIGGER POINT can be described as a spot in a muscle that alerts or triggers a sensation, whether it’s a pain or a weak spot, to another area of the body.
For example, a trigger point in your upper trapezius muscle (near shoulders) may cause a referral pattern up around the side of the head, and behind the ear – which can quite literally be a pain in the neck!
[Image Credit: Abbott Center for Neuromuscular Therapy]
Essentially, that small patch of muscle cuts off its own blood supply, which irritates it even more. This is a vicious cycle and you can think of it more like a “sick” and nutrient-starved muscle.
When you say that you have a “muscle knot,” you are talking about a myofascial trigger point – so they are one and the same. There are no actual knots in there, of course, it just feels like it.
Having just a few trigger points is usually pretty annoying, but many coinciding together is considered Myofascial Pain Syndrome (MPS). TrP’s are to MPS as single pimples are to a case of acne.
SIGNS & SYMPTOMS OF MYOFASCIAL PAIN SYNDROME
- A tender knot in a muscle
- Deep, aching pain in a muscle
- Pain that persists or worsens
- Difficulty sleeping due to pain
[Image credit: PainScience.com]
CAUSES OF TRIGGER POINTS
- A recent or long-term injury
- Lack of exercise
- Poor posture over long periods of time
- Vitamin deficiencies
- Sleep disturbances
- Work-related or recreational activities that cause repetitive stress
Another possible cause of trigger points…
Some evidence shows that a muscle knot may be a patch of “polluted” tissue that’s filled with waste metabolites. If so, it’s no wonder they hurt & no wonder they cause so many strange sensations: it’s more likened to being poisoned than being injured.
MANAGEMENT OF TRIGGER POINTS & MYOFASCIAL PAIN SYNDROME
✓ Acupuncture and/or Dry Needling
✓ Non-invasive modalities such as ultrasound, laser, or electrical stimulation, E.g., a TENS machine, which sends small electrical pulses through the skin to change the way pain signals are sent to the brain.
✓ Self-myofascial release = DIY massage! HERE’S HOW
Good trigger point therapy is definitely underrated! It can be a safe self-treatment with the potential to help with many common chronic pain problems that don’t usually respond well, if at all, to anything else.
7 THINGS YOU CAN DO TO PREVENT (OR IMPROVE) TRIGGER POINTS & MYOFASCIAL PAIN SYNDROME
1/ IMPROVE POSTURE
Be aware of WHERE your stress naturally goes in your body. For example, people commonly hold stress and tension in their lower back and/or neck.
Also, consider that HOW you sit and stand on a daily basis has a long-term impact on your health.
→ Check out THESE TIPS to improve your posture, which can help reduce trigger points.
Regular, but sometimes more gentle, exercise is a crucial part of keeping our muscles limber and in preventing them from knotting up.
Whether you’re at work or doing recreational activities, always remember to stretch after your workout.
→ Here are SOME EXERCISES to get you started.
4/ GET ENOUGH SLEEP
You’ve probably heard this more before, but sleep is critical to your body in so many ways, including restoring and repairing itself after the rigors of daily activity.
5/ STRESS MANAGEMENT
Stress can be pinpointed as the underlying cause of many people’s ailments, including the development of knotty trigger points.
→ Here are the 10 most common practices that discuss with clients for What To Do For Stress Management.
6/ REGULATE & BALANCE DIET
This might surprise you, but getting a proper balance of vitamins and minerals in your diet can help prevent trigger points from forming or from getting worse. It’s always good practice to follow a well-balanced diet filled with fresh, whole foods that offer the most nutrient density.
7/ USE AN APP
And lastly, you could download and use the → Straighten Up App to help improve your posture and overall spinal health 😀
Can even THE best massage therapist and bodyworker remove all your trigger points in a single session or with a single type of therapy?
No, of course not. Like any treatment protocol for various types of chronic pain conditions – it is a process, and it will take time. Be patient, and be open to working along with your practitioner.
Are you experiencing persistent muscle, nerve, joint, or back pain?
to discuss your options for effectively treating your frustrating chronic pain condition!
- PUBMED: Alvarez DJ, Rockwell PG. Trigger points: diagnosis and management. Am Fam Physician. 2002;65(4):653–62
- The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook: Your Self-treatment Guide to Pain Relief, Clair Davies