Muscle pain is one of the most common medical complaints, whether it’s chronic low back pain, or sore muscles from working in the garden. In fact, according to a recent AMTA survey, 30% of respondents have used massage therapy for pain relief. When working with clients who experience pain, it’s helpful to have many different strategies for helping them recover. Trigger point work is often an effective way of decreasing or eliminating pain. Our massage school in Portland, Oregon offers trigger point therapy as an elective course in our 800-hour massage therapy program. In this blog, we’re introducing trigger point therapy and outlining its benefits.
Introducing Trigger Point Therapy
If you’ve ever experienced a muscle “knot,” you have had a trigger point. Each myofascial trigger point is a space of extreme tightness in the body—an isolated muscle spasm that is continually contracted. This limits circulation because continually activated muscles cannot receive ideal blood flow. As a “knot” tightens, it holds onto more metabolic waste and also creates pain—sometimes quite intense pain. In coining the term “trigger point” in 1942, Dr. Janet Travel identified a trigger point as a discrete point in the body that could be felt as a nodule or band. Additionally, she noted that stimulating a trigger point often creates a twitch response.
On their own, trigger points can create nagging pain. They can also complicate injuries. For instance, if you injure your arm, your shoulder may work extra hard to prevent painful movement, and a trigger point may be formed as the shoulder is overburdened.
Moreover, trigger points may cause localized or referred pain (i.e., pain that arises due to a problem in one location but is felt in another part of the body). So, a trigger point in the back caused by poor posture may refer pain to the neck, creating a second trigger point. Together, these “knots” may create tension in the head and lead to headaches.
This information is largely accepted among bodyworkers, including physical therapists, chiropractors, and massage therapists. However, in the general medical community, the concept of trigger point therapy remains controversial, as there is little formal scientific data to support the concept. Still, every therapist who specializes in trigger point therapy can tell you stories of clients whose long-term pain was quickly alleviated through this massage modality.
In practice, trigger point therapy involves delivering and releasing isolated pressure. The recipient of trigger point therapy may be invited to breathe deeply to help soften around tight spots. Finally, the massage client may be asked to help identify the location of the trigger point.
Trigger Point Massage Therapy is often an effective treatment for headaches, carpel-tunnel-ish pain, arm numbness, jaw pain, low back pain, sciatica, osteoarthritis, and more. Here are a few more benefits of receiving trigger point massage therapy:
–Release accumulated toxins
–Enjoy increased range of motion
–Decrease muscle spasms
–Alleviate pain and stiffness
Those who have experienced seemingly inexplicable, long-term pain can greatly benefit from trigger point massage therapy. If you’re interested in adding this modality to your massage practice, keep an eye on our continuing education courses. We consistently offer courses on myofascial release, including trigger point therapy.