Trigger points are small lumps or knots in your muscles that cause pain at that point and refer pain to other areas around the body. Trigger points are caused when a muscle is overworked or injured through exercise, car accidents, improper posture, moving furniture, and other activities that can push your muscles beyond their capacity.
Trigger points can be treated through a variety of invasive procedures. Treatment procedures in a doctor’s office consist of injections from a selection of options: saline, anesthetic, steroids, and botulism toxin. While injections may provide immediate relief they carry high risks of soft tissue and organ damage. A better short and long term solution is trigger point massage and exercises that target strengthening your joints, which may prevent recurring trigger points.
Trigger point massage is the repeated pressure and release of the trigger points. Trigger point massage therapy can be painful, but the release of the trigger point is a worthwhile goal and a relief to the body especially for physically active patients. The release of the trigger point will improve your ability to move, lift items, and support your body.
During the course of trigger point massage therapy, the trigger points will decrease in size. Don’t be surprised if the pressure used on your trigger point remains steady, you’re still making progress. The pressure will remain fairly constant throughout the course of treatment even as the point grows smaller until the point is released. Anti-inflammatories such as Advil and Aleve may help you lessen the discomfort of trigger point massage and will not affect the recovery of the muscle. The decrease in pain you’ll feel after your trigger points have been treated will have effects not only at the site of the trigger point, but in the referring areas of pain as well, which you may not even be aware of as being caused by trigger points. Maintaining muscle health through massage is essential for any active person. Regular massage can help prevent the recurrence of trigger points. You will also be able to treat any trigger point that may occur before it becomes too large and requires lengthy, expensive, and painful treatment. Stopping a small trigger point before it grows and releasing it is can be done quite easily and possibly even in one session.
Trigger points were researched in the 1930s in the UK and Australia with further research published in the 1950s and 1960s. Dr. Janet Travell, possibly the most famous researcher of trigger points, also became famous for treating President John F. Kennedy’s back pain. Trigger points have remained mostly out of the mainstream of medicine, but have become the source of recent attention in the fields of physical therapy, occupational therapy, and sports medicine.
Some small, recent trigger points can be successfully self-treated. Therapy objects such as tennis balls, TheraCane massagers, and firm to extra firm foam rollers can achieve trigger point release. However, most patients’ trigger points have graduated to much larger sizes requiring intensive treatment by a professional to cause release.