When people think of painful “knots” in their muscles, most often those knots are actually trigger points. Trigger points are focused areas of hyperirritability always located in a taut muscle band.
When there are just a few, the person is generally just mildly uncomfortable. But when there are numerous clusters, the pain can be alarmingly fierce.
Trigger points are the root source of most myofascial pain and are major contributors to all sorts of pain – from back and shoulder pain to headaches and foot issues.
The tricky thing about trigger points is that not only can they be incredibly difficult to pinpoint, they be confused with other problems. For example, I had a client who was mere weeks away from carpal tunnel surgery…turns out, however, that releasing trigger points in her shoulder area resolved the issue in her wrists and saved her from an invasive procedure that could have actually made the problem worse, since it didn’t really address the root source of the issue.
Another issue is that trigger points can cause referred pain, or pain that occurs at a location other than where the trigger point actually is. Headaches can be caused by trigger points in the mid to upper back, back pain can be caused by trigger points in the gluteal muscles, or plantar fasciitis can be caused by trigger points in the calf.
Regardless of whether the pain is local or referred, a tell-tail sign that the pain is coming from a trigger point is that the pain is reproduced or increases when pressure is applied to the trigger point.
Even though they may take a little investigative work to find, once the source trigger points are located they’re relatively easy to deactivate. The standard procedure is to first accurately locate the point; it’s easy to be just a little off. Then apply just the right amount of pressure to create heat, which makes the tissue less viscous, and to release the sarcomeres, but not so much that the pain is intolerable. Finally, the tissue must be stretched to help the muscle fibers return to their natural position.
One of the things that make trigger points so blatantly difficult to manage is that they easily reoccur or even cause other trigger points to develop. So, even if you were to stop doing whatever it was that caused those specific trigger points, they can come back. Trigger points aren’t isolated incidents…they’re part of a syndrome; which means they are connected and can reoccur.
The best way to resolve myofascial pain from trigger points is through regular, consistent bodywork. The Integrated Modalities Bodywork techniques that we use at The Pain Relief Center are specifically designed to do just that.