Chronic pain saps the joy from life, and working with trigger points is a proactive way to lessen pain. Trigger points (also known as trigger sites and muscle knots) are spots in muscle tissue that have become hyperirritable, and are associated with palpable nodules in taut bands of muscle fibers. In addition to pain relief, working with trigger points can bring a renewed outlook on life through the mind, body and spirit connection. Every physical or emotional trauma we have sustained has created a feedback loop between the mind and body that has resulted in tension and knotted muscles.
Trigger points can occur as a result of muscle trauma. Muscle strain from repetitive movements at work or play, postural strain from standing or sitting improperly for long periods can create trigger points, as can emotional stress, anxiety, allergies, nutritional deficiencies, inflammation, and toxins in the environment. A single event can initiate a trigger point causing you to suffer the effects for the rest of your life.
Trigger points can be created by a slip and fall, or a motor vehicle accident at speeds as slow as 5 mph. Muscle injury that gives rise to a trigger point can occur from a near fall in which you manage to catch yourself before you hit the ground. Referred pain is a term for pressure on sensitive muscles causing pain in seemingly unrelated part of the body. Referred pain often feels like an oppressive deep ache, and movement can sharpen the pain. Referred pain can be as intense as pain from surgery. In fact, referred myfascial pain can mimic a heart attack.
When you work to eliminate your trigger points use this time to release the knotted emotions you have buried in your body. For example, if a bully hit you when you were a child, the memory of that incident is located in your body where you were hit and it has an associated link in your mind. The mind-link might include associated feelings of anger, fear, insecurity, or helplessness.
Many of us have debilitating low back pain that has completely altered the way we live our lives. The body’s instinctive reaction to harmful events is to protect itself by altering the way you move, sit, or stand, which puts abnormal stress on your muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints. Over time this creates strength and flexibility imbalances in your muscles, as well as postural dysfunctions throughout your body.
The most common place for a trigger point is in the muscle of the lower back called the quadratus lumborum located just above your hips. As the quadratus lumborum became increasingly dysfunctional the position of the pelvis was altered. The pelvis dysfunction creates abnormal spinal curvature thereby putting abnormal pressure on the disc, which over time begins to bulge. As this condition progressively worsens, one’s overall quality of life decreases often leading to depression.
Trigger points may produce symptoms as diverse as dizziness, earaches, sinusitis, nausea, heartburn, false heart pain, heart arrhythmia, genital pain, and numbness in the hands and feet, restless leg syndrome, tooth pain, workout plateau, painful menses, irritable bowel syndrome, headaches, neck and jaw pain, low back pain, sciatica, tennis elbow, and carpal tunnel syndrome. They are the source of joint pain in the shoulder, wrist, hip, knee, and ankle that is often mistaken for arthritis, tendonitis, bursitis, or ligament injury.
The reason that conventional treatments for pain so often fail is that referred pain from trigger points typically goes to some other place in the body. A stimulated trigger point usually produces pain referred in a predictable pattern away from the trigger point, which can also cause contractions in taut band muscles. Triggered taut bands cause dysfunction of the joints.
A trigger point is about the size of a mustard seed. The technique of working with trigger points is to put sustained pressure on a trigger point for a set period of time on a regular basis. There are various techniques that are relatively simple. The technique is to apply sufficient deep sustained pressure applied to the knotted-up area. By working with the trigger point you can create soft tissue release that allows increased blood flow, a reduction in muscle spasm, the break-up of scar tissue, and the elimination of toxic metabolic waste. Also the body will experience a neurological release that releases the pain signals to the brain. This neurological release allows the neuromuscular system to remember and restore its proper function.
The factors that affect the length of time needed to completely release a trigger point include: number of trigger points you have, how long you have had your trigger point, how effective your current treatment is, and how consistently you can administer or receive treatment. It is impractical to see a massage therapist frequently enough to get a trigger point to release, so you must get involved in administering your own treatment in order to experience real success.
To learn more about trigger points and how to work with them, visit Dr. Jonathon Kuttner’s excellent educational website using the first source below.
This website contains charts that will help you isolate where the trigger point is and where the pain to. This page contains 26 trigger point referral chart thumbnails. To view a single chart, position your cursor over the image and click once. If you know which part of the body whose charts you want to view, click on this link to go directly to that group of charts.
Working with trigger points is not a cure all. However with consistent attention, eliminating trigger points diminishes pain and truly enhances one’s quality of life. Self-empowerment is essential to mind/body/spirit well being. You can do this for yourself now.