Beginners Guide to Trigger Points
Updated: May 3, 2020
What is a Trigger Point?
Trigger points are localized, hyper-irritable zones of tenderness and paroxysmic reaction. Digital pressure only increases resistance and will often produce a twitch, spasm or even a ticklish sensation thus "triggering" referred pain in a predictable area. Trigger Points can be caused by trauma, extreme temperature (especially cold), overuse of a muscle or joint, imbalance in the tone of muscle tissue i.e- locked short or locked long, depression, anxiety, stress and even lack of exercise.
Types of Trigger Points
There are different types of Trigger Points (T.P's) and stages:
Latent: dormant yet still with restriction of the connective tissue, decrease in strength and direct pressure will activate it. Be careful- if you activate a Latent T.P's, it is imperative that you fully release it or it can leave your client with a spasm and/or pain they did not experience before.
Active: feelings and symptoms apparent, referred pain to predictable areas, restrictions of mobility and spasmic reactions. An individual who has many active T.P's will likely not be able to tolerate a light massage with oil as it can irritate each point and cause many spasms in one pass during the massage (speaking from experience!). Also avoid frictions and percussions on active T.P's. Fasciatherapy, without oil, is preferred in this situation.
Satellite: created by the effect of having an active trigger point and irradiates persistent pain to a referred zone.
How to release Trigger Points
Trigger points can be released through manual massage therapy. The massage should be designed to regulate tissue metabolism in the irritable area and if possible de-activate the T.P. Techniques to be used should include ischemic pressure- direct sustained compression, fascial approximations work wonderfully on T.P's that spasm often, myofascial raking, myofascial muscle bending or lifting, jostling and skin rolling- which skin rolling can also be used to locate T.P's as well. As mentioned above, avoid frictions, percussions and light effleurages.
How to keep Trigger Points away
As we now know, trigger points are a form of tension that can create an undesired reaction if activated. Releasing a T.P is possible and once released we want to maintain healthy tissue in the area. Since a tight muscle = a weak muscle, you now want to strengthen the area after it's been released. Walking, stretching and strength training are all recommended because usually the more active you are the less T.P susceptibility you will have.
For ideas on how to self-soothe trigger points, check out The Body Blog's Bodywork board on Pinterest!
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