What is trigger point therapy?
A trigger point is a tight area within muscle tissue that causes pain in other parts of the body. A trigger point in the back, for example, may produce referral pain in the neck. … The results and benefits of trigger point massage are releasing constricted areas in the muscles thus alleviating pain.
Myofascial pain syndrome is a chronic pain condition affecting the musculoskeletal system.
Most people experience muscle pain at some time that typically resolves on its own after a few weeks. But for some people, muscle pain persists.
In people with myofascial pain syndrome (MPS), sensitive spots are known as trigger points. These areas develop in the taut, ropey bands of the muscles (the fascia). When pressure is applied to these trigger points there is pain (called referred pain) in a different part of the body.
Common symptoms of MPS include:
- deep pain in localized areas of muscles
- pain that gets worse when the affected muscle is stretched or strained
- muscle pain that gets worse or fails to improve with time
- presence of painful knots in muscles that when pressed produce intense localized or referred pain
- muscles that are weak, stiff, inflexible, or have reduced range of motion
- mood or sleep disturbances
Myofascial pain syndrome vs. fibromyalgia
Most people with pain and fatigue in their skeletal muscles have either fibromyalgia or MPS. Fibromyalgia is a disorder of widespread muscular pain. It can be felt throughout the entire body. But, people with MPS feel localized pain in regional groups of muscles, like the lower back, neck, or jaw.
MPS is characterized by a few localized trigger points in the taut ropey bands of the muscles. These trigger points are tender and can produce localized pain. But their defining characteristic is that they trigger referred pain. Fibromyalgia is associated with multiple, more widespread tender points. These differ from trigger points because they don’t produce referred pain.
Causes and risk factors
Most points occur because of muscle overuse, muscle trauma (injury), or psychological stress. Trigger points often arise from sustained repetitive activities, like lifting heavy objects at work or working on a computer all day. No single factor is responsible for the development of myofascial trigger points. A combination of contributing factors may include:
- poor posture
- sitting for a long time in awkward positions
- nutritional deficiencies
- serious lack of exercise or movement
- any injury to the musculoskeletal system or intervertebral disks
- generalized fatigue
- lack of sleep
- hormonal changes (menopause)
- intense cooling of muscles (such as when sleeping in front of an air conditioner)
- emotional problems (depression, anxiety)
- other pain or inflammation conditions
- active trigger points: These trigger points are nodules within a taut band of muscle. They’re typically the source of muscular pain. They’re very tender, cause referred pain, and produce a twitch when touched.
- latent trigger points: These nodules do not cause pain when touched. They can remain dormant for years and become active when there is stress or trauma.
- secondary trigger point: This is a painful point in the muscle that becomes active when you stress another muscle.
- satellite myofascial point: This is a painful spot that becomes active because it’s located near another trigger point.
Massage for Trigger Point Therapy
There are several types of massage treatments that can relax myofascial trigger points. These include:
- passive rhythmic release
- active rhythmic release
- shiatsu (acupressure)
- trigger point pressure release
Massage therapy increases blood flow and warms up muscles. This can help reduce stiffness and ease the pain. The massage therapist may use their thumb to put pressure on your trigger points, which will aggravate pain and then release the muscle tension.
There are several steps you can take at home to reduce pain and improve your quality of life.
- Choose a better chair at work and improve your posture.
- Try adjusting the height of your computer so that it falls in your natural eye line.
- Try a new mattress, or adjust your sleeping position.
- Practice yoga, Pilates, or another stretching technique. Wear a back brace when doing the heavy lifting.
- Use a personal massager or vibrating device.
- Start an exercise program and get your muscles moving every day.
- See a mental health professional and reduce your stress level.
- Use an ice pack immediately after any muscle injury.
- Use moist heat to treat muscle inflammation.
- Take a hot bath.
- Use a traction device.
- Practice mindfulness to manage pain.