Trigger Points – What is the Point?

What are trigger points?  How do we get them?  How do they affect us?  What should we do about them?

Trigger points:  A segment of muscle fibers stuck in contraction.  It is felt as a nodule, like a tiny pebble or pea, in a taught band of muscle fibers. You will notice it by it’s extreme pain and possibly referring pain/sensation with or without touching/applying pressure.  Localized twitching of the muscle may occur while applying pressure as well.

Trigger points develop from over use of muscles including repetitive stress or overload, emotional stress, postural patterning, trauma, and injury.  Trigger points can also cause the formation of more trigger points.

I like to explain it like this:  Imagine you have an army of 100 men.  If 3 of them are injured, the workload falls on the other 97.  With the same workload but less men, the workforce is working under stressful conditions, further setting itself up for fatigue, injury and possibly failure.  When we have trigger points, those segments of fibers are no longer helping with the workload and the rest of the fibers take on the duty and more stress is created.  Extra tension and force is created upon tendons and ligaments thus affecting joints.  Trigger points can be present for long periods of time – years.  They can be active or latent.  They are often undiagnosed and culprits of (mysterious) pain and dysfunction.

Solutions for trigger points include massage therapy/trigger point therapy, acupuncture and injections.  Massage techniques uses sustained pressure, pulsing pressure (and may include myofascial release and stretching upon ending of the session).  Working with trigger points may leave residual tenderness from being “awakened”.  If too much pressure, force or time is used on the trigger point, it may create bruising or pain.  It make take multiple attempts and sessions to release trigger points.   Chronic issues often need chronic solutions.

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