Trigger point massage was developed by American Dr. Janet Travel in the 1940s. The technique uses pressure applied to the muscles to relieve pain and correct dysfunction in other areas of the body. Trigger point massage is also known myofascial trigger point therapy, because it works on the myofascial sheath that surrounds your muscles, rather than on the muscles themselves.
Trigger Points Explained
Trigger points are sore spots that occur in a muscle; they’re big enough to feel, and most people know them as muscle knots. Trigger points may be active or latent.
Muscle pain is the result of active trigger points. Latent trigger points lie dormant in the muscle, only to cause pain at some future point when stress, tension or movement releases them. Practitioners of trigger point therapy believe that latent trigger points are behind the joint stiffness and limited range of movement that accompanies old age.
The Theory Behind Trigger Point Therapy
Trigger point therapists believe that toxins accumulate around nerve bundles in your muscles. If these toxins are allowed to accumlate enough, they can form a palpable nodule in the muscle, which puts pressure on the nerve bundle and causes pain. Trigger point therapy uses pressure on these nodules to relieve pain in the muscles, joints and throughout the body.
Causes and Symptoms of Trigger Points
Myofascial pain disorders like fibromyalgia may cause trigger points to appear. Other causes include poor posture, injuries sustained at birth or otherwise, and even overexertion.
Symptoms of trigger points include muscle tension, shortening of the muscle, numbness and sharp stabbing pains. You may experience a tingling feeling in the affected muscle and you may even feel nauseated or dizzy.
Benefits of Trigger Point Therapy
Trigger point therapy is often used to treat chronic pain conditions, with many patients reporting substantial improvement in their conditions. Other benefits of trigger point massage include:
- Increased range of motion
- Decreased muscle stiffness and tension
- Reduction in headaches
- Improved flexibility
- Improved circulation
- Fewer muscle spasms
Those who might be able to benefit the most include anyone coping with a chronic pain disorder like fibromyalgia. Back pain patients, arthritis patients, and anyone recovering from an injury or accident may benefit immensely from trigger point massage.
Trigger point massage can effectively treat tendonitis and bursitis; it can also be of benefit to those suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome. Migraine sufferers have benefited from trigger point therapy, and it’s also used successfully in the treatment of athletic injuries and athletic-related muscle stiffness and tension.
Choosing a Trigger Point Therapist
A trigger point therapist will apply pressure to the trigger points to help break them up so that your body can redistribute and process the accumulated toxins. There may be some pain involved. You may have sore muscles for several days after trigger point therapy; you should stretch frequently to keep your muscles from shortening during this period.
Ask your doctor to recommend a qualified trigger point therapist; an unqualified therapist could damage your muscles permanently. If you experience numbness following trigger point therapy, or muscle soreness lasting longer than one week, then you could have sustained muscle damage.