Trigger Point Therapy

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(author, Robb Doyle, LMT of Buckhead Bodyworks;

The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook, by Clair Davies)

 I often have client’s ask me about trigger points and how I know where they are.  It’s a great question since I try to incorporate a little trigger point work into each massage I give.   Robb Doyle, a licensed therapist in AtlantaGeorgia wrote an article that I think best gives an over-view of trigger points.

Trigger point therapy was first studied and researched by Dr. Janet Travell in the early 1940’s.   Dr. Travell used her work and experienced great success in treating John F. Kennedy.  She treated him for some of his debilitating pain that threatened to prematurely end his political career.  To honor her for her work, President Kennedy appointed her as the White House physician; a position she held through the Johnson Administration.

Trigger points are accumulations of metabolic waste product around a nerve receptor.  They often feel like nodules or tight bands of fibers within the soft tissues.

Trigger points can be caused in a variety of ways.

Abnormal bone structure can cause the body to continually compensate for the abnormality, which results in a perpetual strain on certain muscle groups.  That perpetual strain can create trigger points.

Postural Stress, such as the way you sit in your chair at work, or how you sit on your furniture at home.  How you stand or how you walk can create stress on your postural alignment. Keeping your muscles immobile or inactive for long periods of time also creates postural strains, which results in strain on those muscles and the muscle groups around them and thus creating trigger points.

Repetitive Motion overloads the muscles, even when it requires only the slightest movement, such as typing, or turning your head.  Seemingly effortless work of an office is some of the most damaging and harmful stress to your muscles.  The small muscles in your forearms, hands, and wrists are contracting hundreds if not thousands of times in a single session. The larger muscles of your upper back, neck, shoulders and chest remain still, and stiff.  When unrelieved, it places subtle, yet an incredible amount of strain on those muscles and can perpetuate trigger point throughout the entire upper body.   Dr. Travell use to advise people to find ways to “scramble” their work so that they were not doing the same movement over and over again.  The best way to avoid repetitive motion injuries is to try to find ways to “scramble’ your movements to break up the repetition.

The tell-tale sign of a trigger point is that it creates a referred sensation or pain in another area of the body.  A trigger point created in one muscle, can have a referred effect in another.  For example:  a trigger point in the neck muscles, can refer pain to be felt in the temples on your head;  a trigger point in your temple can refer pain into your jaw muscle and you experience a case of TMJ (temporomandibular joint dysfunction).

Trigger points exist in two states, active or latent.  Active trigger points are those which cause discomfort and you notice the pain right away.  Latent trigger points wait silently in the muscle for a future stress to activate them.  Aches and pains which began in the past start to become more frequent and severe as we age.  It is easy to dismiss this pain as arthritis, instead of tight muscles which may be harboring trigger points.

Trigger point massage is not a relaxing technique.  It requires the client to communicate the presence of and intensity of pain or discomfort.  The client and the therapist work together as a team to maximize the effectiveness of the treatment.  Many people report feeling great improvement after one treatment.  Others may need to have repeated treatments to remove chronic trigger points.  There is usually some ‘homework’ that the clients are asked to do in between treatments to help further encourage the muscles to release the trigger point(s).

More information for treatment of trigger point pain can be found in The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook, by Clair Davies.   It provides a wonderful self help guide to relieving and reducing trigger points.



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