Imagine this….. you feel a deep, radiating pain at your right shoulder. It feels better after a good night’s rest, but as your day progresses, the knot-like feeling creeps up on you without invitation. The pain is sometimes very intense and at others moderate. You note that it can also travel and radiate to different areas of your body.
The above scene is all too common for the average person. These annoying little knots in our muscles and connective tissues are called myofascial trigger points. There are two basic types: active or latent. Active trigger points present with focused pain in a muscle and usually refer pain in a characteristic pattern. For example , the trigger points in the trapezius muscles on the tops of your shoulders are among the leading causes of tension headaches. Latent trigger points are asymptomatic unless they become triggered or awakened by stress or injury. For example, a chronic pain that recurs regularly over a period of years, perhaps following an injury of some kind, could be the result of a latent trigger point that was never properly addressed. The good news is that Massage Therapists undergo hundreds of hours in hands-on training to treat and prevent all kinds of trigger points.
The current body of knowledge in the subject area of trigger points was revolutionized by Dr. Travell and Dr. Simons. They have mapped out the entire muscular anatomy and standardized a pain referral pattern for each muscle. And while it is true that a classic trigger point commonly adheres to their research, experience demonstrates that some people present with atypical pain patterns. Nonetheless, the treatment approach is always the same.
One of the most effective treatment approaches that therapeutic massage utilizes for trigger points is called ischemic compression. After locating the knot, direct pressure is applied (within pain tolerance) to reproduce the pain. It may be local or radiate away from the area of pressure. The client then focuses their breath and consciously relaxes until the pain subsides. Pressure is then increased incrementally until the pain returns and the process is repeated until the pain is gone. Lastly, an application of deep moist heat and/or stretching is done to help the muscle maintain its release. It may take several attempts or even several treatments depending on the severity of the condition but massage therapy has proven very effective in the treatment of trigger points. That being said, there is an old saying… “if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you always got”. So, to ensure that your pain remains at bay, it may be necessary to change your exercise and lifestyle habits as well. And a massage therapist can help with that too… just ask!