Unlock the Knots with Trigger Point Therapy
Apr 10, 2014
The body is a matrix of intertwined muscles, joints and tendons. Trigger point therapy taps into the body’s internal web of muscles and tissues to unlock common chronic and injury-related pains caused by tension and stress.
Everybody has trigger points, but whether they’re activated or not can depend on if an area has undergone trauma, stress, overuse or injury. When activated, trigger points can cause widespread pain, tension, irritation and even lack of motion. Applying a moderate to deep pressure to these areas can create a dull, aching feeling to different areas of the body, which is most commonly known as referral pain. This referral pain actually lets therapists know that they are on a trigger point so they can directly address the area and concern.
When you receive trigger point therapy, you may feel tenderness when the therapist applies pressure. But overall, it should be a therapeutic experience where you feel relief after the pressure is applied and the trigger point goes away.
“Trigger point therapy helps eliminate pain, relieve tension and promote a better range of motion,” explains Merrissa Proctor, massage therapist at Elements Acton. “It’s a great tool for all ages and for many issues to unlock an area, but it’s also great to increase circulation and help muscles regain full function. Ultimately, it’s a rehabilitative therapy that provides quick, lasting results.”
Repetitive Movements, Stress Build Knots throughout the Body
Normal people living everyday lives can benefit from the relief provided through trigger point therapy. Performing simple activities like driving in your car for extended periods of time or overdoing it in your daily workout can cause strain and promote the buildup of stress and tension in your muscles.
Doing continuous movement over and over again can irritate tissue, which over time can lead to the development of trigger points. Ultimately, when tissues remain in a contracted state for long periods of time they can harden and create little nodules that therapists can palpitate and actually feel for during a trigger point massage. When these trigger points are addressed and the tension is released, clients can feel instant relief that feeds into long-lasting results.
“When I have a client lay on my table in so much pain and then when the trigger point session is over they get up feeling so much better, those are the best moments of the massage,” shares Ashley Hughes, massage therapist at Elements Chandler West. “When clients realize that they can actually turn their neck in directions they couldn’t before the session, that’s when you see the results of trigger point.”
Trigger Point Provides Quick Results for Releasing Tight Knots
Trigger point therapy encompasses a lot more of the body than most people may realize. This results-driven technique is best for addressing an injury or chronic pain as well as providing pain management solutions for people with beginning to advanced conditions.
Trigger point therapy can be very effective for treating many common muscular conditions and injuries. Proctor typically sees trigger point therapy working well for conditions such as:
- Sciatica pain that can affect the lower back, glutes, legs and feet
- Plantar fasciitis
- Shin splints
- Computer shoulder
- Chronic pain in joints such as stiff neck and back
- Rotator cuff injuries and/or immobility
“Sometimes it’ll only take one trigger point therapy session to start seeing results. Sometimes it can take a little bit longer,” explains Proctor. “Instead of putting a Band-Aid on a problem, you’re actually going into the problem and fixing it with trigger point.”
Pain is Not the Purpose of Trigger Point Therapy
Many people have the misconception that clients who get trigger point massage have to endure high levels of pain and be sore for days following the massage in order for it to be beneficial. In reality, though, Proctor and Hughes both agree that the purpose of trigger point is not to provide more pain, but to rather reduce pain and heal injuries.
“It shouldn’t be an excruciating painful type of experience where you’re sore and bruised,” explains Hughes. “There can be a little bit of tenderness and discomfort in the spot that you’re digging into, but you shouldn’t be afraid to communicate your personal limits with your therapist. Everyone is different so don’t go into a session feeling like you have to hold your breath and bear down to tolerate the pain.”
For the most effective and enjoyable trigger point massage therapy session, Proctor and Hughes both like to also mix in Swedish and deep tissue massage techniques so clients can enjoy the relaxation of the massage experience coupled with the rehabilitative benefits that trigger point can provide. Proctor advises that you shouldn’t do more than six to 10 trigger points in one session because more than that can be too much for the body to handle.
If you’re looking for full body trigger point work, Proctor also suggests that you do the work over the course of multiple sessions for the best results. And, since the benefits of trigger point last longer than traditional practices, you don’t have to get trigger point every time you go in for a massage. After you’ve released the pain and tension caused by built-up knots in your system, you can use trigger point on an as-needed basis going forward.
“I believe massage is a trade of intuition and there are just therapists who know intuitively where trigger points are without the client telling them where they’re sore,” shares Proctor. “The first step is to find a skilled therapist and slowly work into the modality gradually. You don’t want to just jump into trigger point because it’s a lot for your body to work all of its tissues and fluids at once. When approached properly, trigger point massage is a great way to see that massage can help you relieve pain and lead a better life.”