Trigger Point Therapy: Everything You Knead to Know
Updated: May 5
What is a Trigger Point?
A Trigger Point (TrP) is a hyper irritable spot, a palpable nodule in the taut bands of the fascia of the skeletal muscle that shortens the muscle, causing pain and range of motion issues.
Anatomy and Etiology
Trigger points develop in the myofascia, mainly in the center of a muscle belly where the motor endplate enters. TrPs are palpable nodules within the tight muscle as large as 1/2 an inch in diameter. We all have TrPs in the body. They can even be present in babies and children, but their presence does not necessarily result in the formation of a pain syndrome. This is because many TrPs remain dormant and painless. It is only when the body has a perceived strain or injury that they become active or painful. When TrPs are active or activated they are associated with myofascial pain syndrome*, somatic dysfunction, psychological disturbance and restricted daily functioning.
Myofascial Pain Syndrome refers to pain in a specific area of the body within the soft tissue that causes muscle tenderness. This muscle sensitivity is usually from more than one TrPs found at multiple sites in the muscle and the fascia of muscle tissue.
Causes-Usually, TrPs occur due to:
Injury sustained by a fall, by stress or birth trauma
Lack of exercise-commonly in sedentary persons between the ages of 27&55
Bad posture-upper and lower crossed pattern, swayback posture, telephone posture, cross-legged sitting
Muscle overuse and respective micro trauma-weightlifting
Chronic stress condition-anxiety, depression, psychological stress trauma
Vitamin deficiencies-vitamin C, D, B, folic acid, iron & magnesium
Joint problems and hyper-mobility
How can massage help?
The massage therapist will analyze the tissue to determine the location(s) of the trigger point(s) and will use a combination of techniques such as ischemic compression to shrink the trigger point (or put it into a dormant state.) This portion of the massage can be quite uncomfortable do to the sensitive nature of the TrP and the pain pattern but many are eager to endure the pain for the resulting relief that awaits.
After deactivating the TrPs the massage therapist will apply techniques to increase circulation in the muscle and move the muscle to increase range of motion. The result is pain relief and freedom of movement to the affected area.
If the muscle is exposed to a perceived strain or is compromised in the future the trigger point will reactivate to protect the tissue. Stretching throughout the day or after physical activity can assist in keeping the muscles long, limber and healthy. Strengthening and hydration is also important for muscle health.
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