Relieve Trigger Points to Decrease Muscle Pain

Trigger points (or T.P.'s for short) are a hypersensitive taut muscle band or palpable knot in a muscle that can cause localized pain, referred pain, or both. Referred pain from them can mimic pinched nerves in the neck or lower back.

They can occur directly from muscle injuries, poor posture, or repetitive strain. They can occur indirectly from spinal conditions such as a herniated disc.

trigger points image

Trigger Point Therapy is not just the treatment of trigger points that develop in skeletal muscles.

Examining the factors that cause the condition (precipitating factors such as excessive stress) as well as the factors that keep pain and dysfunction ongoing (perpetuating factors such as depression or anxiety) must also be considered.

TP's are usually the result of a repetitive motion, strain, trauma, or poor posture. Dietary, emotional stress, and environmental stress can also create them in localized areas. Many physiologists dispute exactly what they are and what causes them. As a result, there is no universal explanation.

Most people are not even aware that they have a problem with them. That's mainly because they've never heard of them and don't know what they are. Their devastating effects on your health and your body can be far reaching. They can affect the way you stand, the way you walk, the way you move in general, and possibly even the way you breathe.

They are generally not painful until someone pushes on them or touches them. That's when they can really be felt! Referred pain is the #1 negative effect from them. Left untreated, their negative effects on your body can affect daily life and routine. That's why it's important to treat them.

Relieve Trigger Points to Decrease Muscle Pain

By definition, a Trigger Point is a hyper-irritable spot in skeletal muscle that is associated with a palpable nodule in a taut band. The spot is painful on compression and may give rise to characteristic referred pain, referred tenderness, or motor dysfunction.

They are also full of lactic acid and toxins. Those toxins can cause a toxic reaction in your body.

They form where the muscle or tendon meets the bone. The most common trigger points can be found in the belly of the muscles. Although they feel like ONE BIG KNOT, they are not. They are a series of contracted muscles layers that originate in the middle of the muscle but are stretched towards the outside of the muscle. They are not just one big 'knot', but a series of points intermingled with the individual muscle fibers.

You can see in the diagram, the exact location of the painful points. The most tender and complained about T.P. is T3 (Trapezius 3). It is located on the top of the shoulder in the meat of the muscle in between the back of the neck and the collar bone. Pain in this trigger can cause headaches and numerous other debilitating conditions.

Tension headaches are often caused by inflamed trigger points in the upper Trapezius muscle. (on top of the shoulder)

Trigger points in the upper Trapezius muscle refer pain up the side of the neck and into the temple. It may also refer pain into the jaw or can refer pain, tingling, heat, itching, or numbness down the arm.

There are also a series of points located in the Suboccipital muscles. These deep muscles are located on the back of the neck and are responsible for most head movements.

If you sit a lot or work at a computer all day, the T.P.'s in your gluteals (buttocks) may be terribly inflamed. Get someone to push into the pain with their fist or knuckles. There is nothing better than a good buttocks massage!

Trigger Points can exist in one of two states, active or latent.

Active T.P.'s cause referred pain or pain that is felt somewhere else in the body. They decrease range of motion for that muscle.

Latent T.P.'s do not cause pain except when compressed, but they do restrict range of motion.

Referred Pain

Every muscle in the body has a specific pattern of pain that it might induce. Any good massage therapist will map the pain of the patient to determine which muscle(s) are causing the pain. About 85% of the time pain is felt somewhere other than where it's located. Only 15% of the time will the pain be felt locally.

That's why sometimes pain in the area may come back even after treatment. Treatment must address the local pain and the referral pain. You can't treat one without treating the other.

Before TP Therapy or Massage

If you can, get these points worked on by any qualified Massage Therapist. Massage can go a long way to the treatment of the painful knots. Drinking lots of water and stretching before and after a therapy session can greatly improve your healing process. Also try taking Aspirin or Ibuprofen an hour before trigger point therapy. Massage therapy will increase blood flow to the area and decrease chronic pain.

Neck and Shoulder Stretch

Place your right arm behind back, and grasp wrist with left hand.

Bend your neck (sideways) to the left. Then stretch your right arm out or pull it out gently with your left arm.
Hold for 10-15 seconds.
Repeat for other side.
Repeat cycle three times before and after trigger point therapy.

To prevent shoulder injury and neck injury, make sure your neck is aligned properly. This will help you cut down on the amount of pain you get when your T.P.'s flair up.

Neck Alignment

1. Sit up tall in the chair, align the neck by keeping the head high, touch your chin with hand, then pull the chin in and away from the hand.

2. Relax the face and jaw muscles. Open the mouth slightly so the teeth are not clenched.

3. Rest your tongue on the roof of the mouth just behind the teeth, gently touching roof of the mouth with your tongue.

4. Visualize a string attached to the chest. Pull the string up to lift the chest. This lifts the head and places it in proper alignment.

5. Now align the chin by touching chin and pulling back away from hand again.

6. Stabilize your head by resting your chin in the left hand with finger and thumb along and slightly under the jaw bone.

7. Slide your right hand up the back of neck to the base of skull.

8. Gently pull the base of skull straight up as though trying to lift the head off the shoulders. You may feel a ‘pop’ or two.

9. Now relax the shoulders. This exercise will lengthen the neck, stretch the muscles on the back of neck, and increase the spaces between the cervical vertebrae.

When you keep your neck and your shoulders aligned properly, you will get trigger point pain less often.

Treatment of Trigger Points

Regular massages can also help you keep them to a minimum and will help you overcome painful conditions. Better yet, massage them yourself.

Trigger points respond well to pressure. Push them down, dig into them with your fingertips, or get someone else to use their forearm or elbow to push into them for you. Use arnica oil on those painful areas to reduce pain.

Start out with gradual pressure and work up to more pronounced pressure though. Odds are that they are very inflamed and full of toxins and lactic acid. I promise you they will be very painful if they are a palpable knot.

When you release toxins into your blood stream, be sure to drink lots of pure water to flush them from your body. The more toxins you eliminate, the healthier you'll be! You may also develop flu like symptoms for just a short while. Take NSAIDS for symptoms and remember to work on your Mtrigger points often to keep muscle pain to a minimum!

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