A trigger point is a spasmed part of a muscle that can create pain on touch or cause referred pain outside of the trigger point location. A trigger point can develop in any muscle in the body, but some areas are more prone than others. Trigger points can create local or referred pain and can be treated with Trigger Point Release techniques.
Most people have trigger points in their upper trapezius, which is located at the nape of the neck to the bottom of the shoulder. If you feel around that area, you’ll be able to find a knot (see the video for more detail). When you find the trigger point, it is usually tender to the touch. If you press it, you might feel it in your head, arm or back of the shoulder blade.
Muscles are made up of many muscle fibers. When the muscle is healthy, there is a gliding that occurs to contract and lengthen a muscle. Those fibers clump together and spasm when a trigger point develops. The trigger point constricts the flow of blood to that area, which the muscle needs for nutrients. Lack of good blood flow can cause the area to become increasingly irritated and cause pain locally on touch.
If the trigger point is severe enough and considered an active trigger point, the pain can move outside of the area. For example, trigger points:
Some trigger points can cause pain that feels like it’s coming from an internal organ. The abdominal muscles, gluteal muscles and the pelvic floor muscles can all develop trigger points. When they become active enough, it can make it feel like your bladder, uterus, ovaries or rectum is in pain.
Trigger point symptoms include:
It’s important to visit a wholistic physical therapist who understands how to treat the body as a whole to make sure all the muscles are working well together. Trigger points are usually due to an imbalance. It’s important to understand why they are developing so any alignment issues can be addressed to prevent the trigger point from developing again.
There are multiple ways to deactivate trigger points, including:
A successful treatment protocol relies on identifying trigger points, resolving them and, if all trigger points have been deactivated, elongating the structures affected along their natural range of motion and length. In the case of muscles, which is where most treatment occurs, this involves stretching the muscle using combinations of passive, active, active isolated (AIS), muscle energy techniques (MET), and proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) stretching to be effective. Fascia surrounding muscles should also be treated, possibly with myofascial release, to elongate and resolve strain patterns, otherwise muscles will simply be returned to positions where trigger points are likely to re-develop.
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