Trigger points: You might now know the name, but if you have back or sore muscle problems, you likely have them. Trigger points, also called muscle knots, are tight bands of muscle fiber that can feel like anything from a pebble to a golf ball that, when pushed, can send referred pain up and down your body. Essentially, if you have one, you’ll know it when you find it.
There are various ways to treat or address trigger points from therapeutic massage to trigger point injections and stretching, and finding the best way for you is critical. Pain Science calls trigger points small muscle knots in the muscle fibre. These trigger points can affect the way the whole muscle performs and can cause what is called referred pain elsewhere in the body.
Back and neck pain can be caused by trigger points, which can also cause headaches. Dr. Janet Travell says that almost any intervention can improve the situation with a trigger point. Locating the trigger point is the key, and a good sign is when you press the affected area, and the pain shoots up or down. Rubbing or pressure, with your fingers or an object like a lacrosse ball, can help break up a trigger point. Dr. Travell says that the key it to find the best way to relate to your muscle trigger points.
“Massage is a conversation with your nervous system. So you want it to have the right tone. Friendly and helpful! Not shouty and rude.”
Illinois News Network says that massage is critical to relaxation, and you must find the right technique and style that improves your health. Chiropractor Dr. Jordan Leasure explains the different types of massage and what they achieve. They vary in level of pressure and include Swedish, sports massage, shiatsu, and deep tissue. But if trigger points are your issue, then there is specific trigger point massage.
“This is targeted at muscles that have been strained or are related to chronic pain or posture problems. The therapist targets deep layers of muscles and connective tissue by using short strokes and intense pressure.”
After a trigger point massage, it is normal to feel sore for a day or two, but to break up trouble areas, it’s worth it. Also, unlike many other forms of massage, trigger point massage doesn’t tend to be relaxing but more therapeutic — or a means to an end, so to speak.
“Therapists at chiropractic offices are extensively trained to target the muscles that are contributing to your diagnosis to help resolution take place as quickly as possible.”
But massage can get pricey, and as most athletes know, learning how to treat trigger points yourself to some degree is helpful, according to Triathlon Magazine. Although most athletes put together their own “self-care” kit, there is a triathlete toolbox available. A good starter kit is the footballer kit, which is two pieces, including a roller and a ball.
“This mini roller is about the size of a handheld weight. It’s designed to work out muscle problems in the lower legs. Use it on calf, feet or soleus muscles (near the shin). To use this one properly, rest in on top of the block that is comes with so the leg can be elevated and the foot relaxed. Apply pressure either with the hands or the opposite leg.”
Elements Massage reports that trigger points might seem tender at the time of the massage, but later on, it will improve the way you feel. Ironically, the pain at the time of the massage will lead later to feeling better.
“Trigger point therapy helps eliminate pain, relieve tension and promote a better range of motion,” explains Merrissa Proctor, massage therapist at Elements Acton. “It’s a great tool for all ages and for many issues to unlock an area, but it’s also great to increase circulation and help muscles regain full function. Ultimately, it’s a rehabilitative therapy that provides quick, lasting results.”
Trigger point massage can treat everything from shin splints to migraines, and other strains and sports-related injuries.
Do you have trigger points?
[Photo by Martin Rose/Getty Images]