Trigger point therapy is becoming increasingly popular, and more and more massage therapists incorporate the techniques in their treatments. It is not the same as acupressure, though some trigger points corresponds with acupressure points.
A trigger point is defined as; “A highly irritable localized spot of exquisite tenderness in a nodule in a palpable taut band of (skeletal) muscle.” Their sizes vary from tiny lumps to large lumps and can be felt beneath the surface in the muscle fibres. They can be found in all muscles of all ages, even children and babies.
Nobody knows precisely why or how a trigger point forms. It’s clear though that stress and strain to a muscle will trigger their formation and prolonged muscular strain can increase their size and number. Those which are just slightly tender can be a forewarning of potential problems building and a good sign that a muscle or muscle group is strained and treatment might soon be needed.
Poor posture, wrong use of muscles and joints, strain and stress to the body can all form trigger points. As with all things, it’s important to maintain your body and keep it in good shape. Exercise, strength training, stretching and keeping a proper posture are all steps towards this goal. Active painful trigger points are a sign that your body needs maintenance and care.
The mark of trigger points is the referred pain patterns. The referrals comes from how the muscles and tendons attach and connect to various parts of the the body. The muscle and tendons connect to other areas, sometimes spreading out. Sometimes a muscle attaches to another muscle, sometimes it control a tendon which runs far from it’s point of origin. Muscles cross each other in layers and there are clear patterns in how one muscle can affect others even in complete other parts of the body. Sometimes via direct connection, other times because of how the muscles work together.
For instance can a trigger point located in the calf refer pain in the big toe. The calf muscle is strained, which causes the trigger point to form. The referred pain comes as the muscle controls the movement of the big toe. As such, in order to truly understand and use trigger point therapy, it’s important to understand anatomy and how the muscles are attached and what their functions are.
Trigger point therapy is in its essence rather simple. A muscle has a trigger point which is pressed until a release happens. The soreness subsides, the nodule loosens and the referred pains disappear. In practicality it takes knowledge and skill to find the primary trigger points, know what causes them to form (for instance poor posture) and understanding how pain in the forehead might be caused by a trigger point in the shoulder.
It’s an interesting field to study and certainly bound to become a discipline most massage therapists will integrate in their treatments.