Trigger points are an extremely common cause of pain. Trigger points are painful when pressed on, cause a shortening of the muscle fibers, and have a special property called referred pain. Referred pain means that a trigger point in one muscle can create pain in another area. When our muscles harbor trigger points, we experience pain, physical limitation and loss of normal function.
After forming, trigger points have two phases, active and latent. The active, painful phase of the trigger point is the one which produces the unrelenting, debilitating pain symptoms and which motivates people to seek relief. The active trigger point hurts when pressed with a finger and causes pain around it and in other areas. It causes the muscle in which it’s located to be weak and due to the taut bands, to have limited flexibility. The active trigger point referral symptom may feel like a dull ache, deep, pressing pain, burning, or a sensation of numbness and fatigue.
Trigger points can also lie quietly in muscles, sometimes for years. This type of trigger point is called latent. Latent trigger points are very common. Unless you press on the trigger point and feel the tenderness, you probably don’t know they are there. Most people have at least a few. Latent trigger points may persist for years after apparent recovery from injury.
Since a trigger point is the contraction mechanism of the muscle locked into a shortened position, the treatment of the trigger point involves unlocking that contraction mechanism. This can be achieved in several ways. Trigger Point Pressure release involves applying pressure with a finger or other instrument to the trigger point and increasing the pressure as the trigger point “releases” and softens. There are a number of variations on this technique and a skilled massage therapist will choose which is right for each client and muscle treated.
Once trigger points are released the muscle needs to be moved throughout its full range. Simple limbering movements done by the client at home are important in the retraining of the muscle.
Many clients experience relief from pain during the first treatment. For others several treatments are needed before their pain starts to diminish. It is common for clients to experience some soreness for one to two days after treatment.
Returning to normal activities without pain is most often accelerated by adherence to the self-care program given to you by your therapist. Minimizing stress, pacing your activities and avoidance of overexertion (as well as focusing on what you can do instead of your limitations) are of prime importance.
Trigger Point Therapy is usually used in combination with Deep Tissue Massage.
You’ll also want to stay well hydrated for the next 24 to 48 hours to help your body continue to eliminate toxins.