By Mike Aguirre
Chronic pain is one of several reasons you might look to massage therapy or trigger point therapy to relieve some nagging pain or injuries you are experiencing before, after or during training. Trigger points can be implicated in a wide range of common conditions that involve chronic pain including sciatica, plantar fasciitis, frozen shoulder and low back pain just to name a few.
So what are trigger points? Trigger points are defined as “a focus of hyperirritability in a tissue, when compressed is tender and if sufficiently hypersensitive, gives rise to referred pain and tenderness.” In other words trigger points are painful when pressed on, causing a shortening of muscle fibers and have a property called referred pain. Referred pain means that a trigger point in one muscle can create pain in another area. For example, you may experience a problem at the elbow but really it is actually the bicep muscle being so tight that your arm could not straighten and the stress was absorbed inside the elbow joint, causing pain and inflammation. Think of it as a 12-inch piece of rope and tying knots in it until it is only 10 inches long. The knot gets tighter and the fibers on each side of the knots are being overstretched.
So how is a trigger point formed? The damage to muscle tissue, which results in trigger points, can occur in many different ways. They can form in result of repetitive overuse injuries such as using the same body parts in the same way hundreds of times on a daily basis. Poor posture due to sedentary lifestyles, de-conditioning and poor designed furniture. Direct injury such as a hit, strain or sudden twist; think like sports injuries, car accidents, falling down stairs. Also surprisingly they can even develop due to inactivity such as sitting or bed rest. All muscle tissue is potentially prone to developing trigger points. The number and specific location of these spots on each person vary.
Now that you know what a trigger point is and how they are formed there are many things you can actively do for some relief of those pains you may be experiencing. Since a trigger point is the contraction mechanism of the muscle locked into a shortened position, the treatment involves unlocking that contraction. There are several ways to go about it but one common practice you can do involves applying pressure with a finger and other object such as a lacrosse ball, a baseball, a medicine ball etc. and you are increasing the pressure as the trigger point releases and softens. There are many variations, positions and angles that help dig into certain areas better than others. Another practice is message therapy, seeing a massage therapist he or she can help directly apply pressure to spots that you haven’t been able to find success on your own. Take care of your body, spend 5-10 minutes pre and or post training hitting different trigger point spots to help prevent and reduce those knots and reduce areas of chronic pain.
Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction. The Trigger Point Manual. Janet G. Travell,
MD and David G. Simons, MD. Williams & Wilkins, Baltimore, MD.