How Trigger Point Massage Can Help Relieve Chronic Pain
Have you ever been on a massage therapist’s table when he or she touches an area that makes you wince? Suddenly you say something, like, “Wow, I didn’t know that hurt!” and your therapist begins exploring it like a person possessed in an effort to distribute and alleviate the pain.
What we’re talking about here is a trigger point — something that can be implicated in a wide range of common conditions that involve chronic pain, including sciatica, plantar fasciitis, low back pain, trigger finger and frozen shoulder, to name just a few.
That spot your therapist touched is defined as “a focus of hyper-irritability” in a tissue that, when compressed, is locally tender. Put more simply, you can consider it to be a localized spasm or knot in the muscle fiber. What you may not realize, however, is that it can also send signals to other, more distant parts of the body. When clients come to me and tell me they may have arthritis of the elbow, sometimes I find that it was actually the bicep muscle that was so tight that the arm could not straighten so stress was being placed on the inside elbow joint.
Trigger points are typically caused by three types of muscle overload: acute, sustained and repetitive. I could go into the technical aspects of how a trigger point is formed, but to make it a bit more understandable, I use the analogy ofa short piece of rope, by tying knots in it so it becomes much shorter. It paints the picture of how the knot is getting tighter and the fibers on either side of the knot are being overstretched.
Perhaps one of the biggest benefits of massage therapy is that it’s noninvasive and fairly easily tolerated. Not only that, but other forms of treatment may not address all of the necessary areas, such as those we mentioned that are not near the trigger point.
As a veteran massage therapist, I understand the relationship between each of the muscles that have an impact on a particular joint.That means knowing which muscle needs to be released first in order for subsequent muscles to be effectively treated.
I can use the referral patterns of the trigger points to follow the point of pain you describe to the originating muscle, locate the trigger point in that muscle and apply direct pressure to release the spasms. I use a type of digital compression to help relieve trigger points. That’s why communication with my clients is so important. It’s vital that you tell me in no uncertain terms if the pain is not tolerable so I can adjust my pressure. If I am asking you repeatedly, it is because I am trying to fine-tune the procedure and relieve your chronic pain.