Trigger Points and Their Treatment

What is a trigger point?

Trigger points or ‘muscle knots’ are small patches of tightly contracted muscle tissue that can cause pain and stiffness. To touch, trigger points can feel like a small thickened area, or tight band in a muscle. Trigger points are associated with pain in both the local muscle, and/or cause the referral of pain to other areas of the body. For example, trigger points around the shoulder blade can refer pain into the neck, or front of the shoulder. Trigger points in the buttock are often associated with sciatic pain. The pain can often be elicited by applying pressure to the contracted tissue. Trigger points may also manifest as tension headaches, ringing in the ears, decreased range of motion of a limb and lower back pain.

What causes a trigger point?

It can happen as a result of:

• Habitually poor posture as a result of sedentary lifestyle.
• Repetitive overuse injuries from activities requiring use of the same body part hundreds of times.
• Injury such as a fall, strain or direct blow.
• Sustained loading, eg: backpacks, carrying babies, workplace lifting.
• Poor bio-mechanics.
• Muscle tensing due to emotional stress.

How can trigger points be treated?

One way to treat trigger points is by using massage, which helps in several ways. Firstly, it helps to increase circulation, which has been restricted by constricted fibres. This enables oxygen and nutrients to flow back into the contracted fibres. Secondly, it directly stretches the knotted muscle fibres, making them more supple, thus helping to return function to the muscle.

That being said, you don’t have to see a Massage Therapist to help manage muscular pain through trigger point therapy. Your Exercise Physiologist can assist in identifying trigger points and teach you a variety of self-massage techniques, using massage balls and foam rollers. Furthermore, your Exercise Physiologist can help to identify and address possible causes, such as postural imbalances, to help you to achieve long term relief from muscle pain caused by trigger points.

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