What Is A Trigger Point?
A trigger point, as the name implies, is a specific point or area in a muscle that can causes pain to refer to another part of the body. We at Sports Physio UK Use Trigger Point Therapy to tackle these. For example, a trigger point located in the neck could be the source of a headache or even toothache. Neck pain may be “referred” from a trigger point in the shoulders or back. You can suffer with localised pain in the area of the Trigger Point, but most of the time, (70%) this Trigger point will refer to another part of the body.
Characteristics of Trigger Points:
– These are tender to touch and form a ‘knott’ or tight band of fibrous tissue in or around a muscle
– By pressing, or applying a pin point pressure, this will cause pain localised but also more than often pain else where in the body.
– Trigger points can be held responsible for other issues in the body such as weak muscles, loss of co-ordination, limited mobility, fatigue, urinary problems and incontinence.
The American Academy of Family Physicians published some research in 2002 indicating some trigger points can develop due to sedentary lifestyles, acute or repetitive trauma/impact to the muscle, sleep problems, joint problems, vitamin/nutritional deficiencies, and muscular overload, among others.
Using trigger point therapy, the ‘knots’ (contracted muscle fibres) can be relaxed and stretched thus aiming to deactivate the trigger point. We have seen patient in clinic get results as early as the first treatment with a significant reduction in pain and symptoms.
By using trigger point therapy with other regular massage techniques, we can further amplify the benefits and help relieve pains, even for the stubborn conditions.
What Is Trigger Point Therapy?
If you have latent or active trigger points in your body, self-treatment can be completed or you could seek specialist professionals at Sports Physio UK to treat them. Doing a combination of both may help deactivate trigger points faster.
The final outcome after dealing with a trigger point is to re-gain full range of movement in the muscle, pain relief and the best flow of kinetic energy.
Therapists trained in deactivating trigger points may use a combination of treatments, including soft tissue massage and even dry needling.
What conditions can be treated with trigger point therapy?
Trigger point therapy can be used for to assist with pain in many conditions, including:
- Headaches and migraine
- Lower back pain
- Heel pain
- Shoulder pain
- Plus, many more
How can this therapy release trigger points and eliminate the associated symptoms?
The use of massage, if completed personally or by a trained Therapist, will aid in the restoration of normal circulation bringing oxygen and vital nutrients the area that needs it.
The use of this pin point pressure assists with the tight fibres and stop them from being continuously contracted.
What are the benefits of trigger point therapy?
- Pain relief
- Stretch tight muscle fibres which are effected.
- Stimulate blood flow aiding in removal of toxins and replenishment of oxygen
- Endorphin release
What can you expect from your first treatment?
Body positioning would depend on the area of the body you are suffering pain in. You may be asked to sit, stand, lie on your back (supine), lie on your front (prone) or, in many cases with lower back pain, side lying.
If the practitioner deems it OK, he may be able to complete trigger point therapy with light fitted clothes on. Most Practitioners at Sports Physio UK however would request either light fitted clothing that can be moved, or for you to disrobe to underwear whilst the Therapist is out of the room. Towels are provided to assist with draping. The reason for this is to ensure the practitioner can do the trigger point therapy with other techniques. Therapists may use other massage techniques to ensure the best results for the condition you have presented.
Is it painful?
Generally, trigger points are sensitive and it is safe to say, you have already come with some level of discomfort. The pin point pressure used does cause a slight elevation in this discomfort. With a great deal of communication and expertise, the Therapist will do there upmost to ensure it keep within a range of 5 to 7 out of 10,
If you find you cannot handle to amount of pressure the Therapist is applying, you need just simply let them know. The Therapist to reduce it slightly and they will do so immediately.
Self-care to Complement Trigger Point Therapy
Your Therapist can help guide you with some techniques for self-trigger pointing/therapy at home.
This is the cheapest and most simple way to help yourself at home. You will also help flush the body of toxins and address those small niggling trigger points. This can help reduce the risk of the trigger point from getting larger. This alone causes more issues, or risk of return in the future.
Simply find the sore point in the muscle, and using the tips of your finger and a little lotion Make small circular motions applying a direct pressure. If the trigger point is more complex, it may be required to continue this technique 3 or 4 times per day. You could use a tennis ball or baseball in place of your own fingers.
This is great if you are an athlete and are loading your muscles each and every day in training or in matches etc.
Have a read of our Foam Roller article to see how this is done in detail.
Trigger point exercises and tips for specific conditions
The neck is a great place to start with trigger pints. Often the neck muscles are at work all day every day supporting the load of the head. They work alongside the shoulder and upper back muscles enabling movement and assisting with posture.
The Sub-Occipital and Scalene muscles in the neck should be your focus. Also the Levator Scapulae and Trapezius muscles in the shoulder can refer pain to the neck.
The idea is to press down using the end of a finger on the trigger point. Reduce the pressure until no more pain is felt. Next, slowly increase the pressure over 60 to 90 seconds, making sure to stay below the point of pain. Then slowly release the pressure and stretch out your neck. Remember when stretching your neck to think of the correct postural positioning first.
Like the neck muscles, the shoulders experience pain, mainly due to the desk based jobs we are seeing more of in the UK. (see our Desk Based Workers Article)
The Infraspinatus, Trapezius and Subscapularis muscles are affected most by trigger points. Increasing the range of movement, stretching and providing strength to these muscles will help.
Again, as with the neck, using your figures, applying a pin point pressure and release this pressure until you feel you are in a pain free range. Now again, increase the pressure for 60 to 90 seconds staying within the pain free range. Allow for time to stretch following the self-treatment.
Seek freedom from pain
Thanks to the ongoing research into trigger points, we at Sports Physio UK have been able to provide relief to many in need and if you have any issues or pain points, do not leave it, get in touch and seek freedom from pain!