Trigger points can bring on headaches, neck and jaw pain, back pain, sciatica, carpal tunnel syndrome, etc. Trigger point therapy can be used to relax the knotted muscles and break the cycle of pain.
What Are Trigger Points
A trigger point is a small nodule in a taut band of muscle tissue. Often you can feel a hard knot in the muscle. Trigger points cause muscles and tissue to tighten and shorten. These hardened knots can cause so much pain that you alter the way you move, sit or stand. This leads to strength and flexibility issues, creating more trigger points.
Trigger points form in specific places and cause pain and other symptoms in predictable patterns. This means that trigger points typically send pain to other places in the body. This is called referred pain. You could be feeling pain down your arm, in your mid-back or your neck, but the actual trigger point may be in your shoulder.
Trigger Point Symptoms
Trigger points cause lingering pain, tightness and/or restriction of movement. You can experience joint pain, headaches, neck and jaw pain, back pain or genital pain. Trigger points can also be the root cause of any of these other symptoms:
- heart arrhythmia
- numbness in hands or feet
- restless leg
- carpal tunnel
- tennis elbow
What Is Trigger Point Therapy
Trigger point therapy is a technique that involves applying pressure to trigger points in order to relieve pain and restore mobility. The idea is to put deep sustained pressure to the knotted-up area on a regular basis. When pressure is applied blood flow is increased. This allows oxygen and nutrients to flow and heal the area. The pressure also stimulates your body to release endorphins helping to reduce pain signals.
Some practitioners, massage therapists, chiropractors, and osteopaths can administer trigger point therapy. Even if you can find someone who can properly treat your trigger points, it can be time-consuming and costly. Trigger points need to be addressed daily. Most likely, it will be impractical to see someone frequently enough to get a trigger point to release.
Trigger Point Therapy Specifically For Fibromyalgia
Trigger points are often mixed up with tender points, one of the original criteria for diagnosing fibromyalgia. One of the problems in diagnosing fibromyalgia using tender points is that some of the 18 tender points coincide with or are near the location of myofascial trigger points.
Many fibromyalgia sufferers have myofascial pain and trigger points that also contribute to their symptoms. It may be that fibromyalgia tender points are symptoms of an overreaction of the central nervous system. Or it could be that they are really hyperactive trigger points contributing to the overstimulation of the central nervous system.
Source: The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook: Your Self-Treatment Guide for Pain Relief
Fibromyalgia sufferers should treat trigger points conservatively to reduce myofascial pain. Limit the intensity and duration of treatment based on what is comfortably tolerated without worsening the symptoms.
One of the best resources for learning about trigger points, their referred pain pattern and how to self-treat myofascial trigger points is The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook: Your Self-Treatment Guide for Pain Relief.
Of course the best solution is to find a physical therapist that understands trigger point therapy. These can often be found at neurologist offices or pain treatment clinics. You can also treat your own trigger points by taking a very warm shower first to loosen up tight muscles. To apply the pressure to trigger points I use a tennis ball and the Back Buddy. And then, I finish with stretching to lengthen the muscles.