How to Use Trigger Point Therapy to Get Rid of Muscle Knots
Muscle knots might seem like no big deal, until you feel their characteristic soreness and concentrated spikes of pain. Your freedom of movement is inhibited, and the demands of daily life only seem to wind these knots tighter. Sure, you can take an Advil to temporarily help the symptoms, but there’s a better, long-term (not to mention completely natural) solution. Meettrigger point therapy; it’s a special massage technique that targets tender muscle knots—so-called trigger points—to alleviate pain and tension.
Take it from Chunying Li, massage therapist and owner ofLouisiana Massage Therapy Clinic in Lafayette Louisiana . “Trigger point therapy is a system of different points in the body that the therapist isolates and applies pressure on to relieve a pain that may be located in another area of the body—which is called referred pain.”
First things first: Trigger point therapy can be used almost everywhere on the body. “Many people receive trigger point therapy in larger muscle groups like the glutes, hamstrings, quads, trapezius and more,” says Millhouse. “But because trigger points send pain to areas that are hard to determine by the people experiencing it, sometimes therapy is needed in places you might not expect.” Think of places like your mouth (to combat TMJ), your neck (to help thoracic outlet and carpal tunnel syndromes), and even your pelvic floor. “Trigger points are found all over the body. Therefore, you can use them onanyarea of the body,” Lim says, although most of her clients experience them in the neck and shoulders.
It all starts with a nerve placed over a muscle fiber. “That area is called the motor end plate, or neuromuscular junction,” she says. “At the motor end plate, a chemical signal is sent from the nervous system that tells the muscle to contract. If there’s an imbalance in the area (often caused by an injury that strains the muscle or by repetitive overuse), then a trigger point can form. As far as the therapy is concerned, the sustained pressure applied by a massage therapist interrupts the nerve signal and causes the muscle to let go.” It will also “encourage blood and oxygen circulation and release lactic acid from that muscle,”
The difference between these two lies in their longevity and painfulness. “The active trigger point produces the unrelenting, debilitating pain, which motivates people to seek relief. It hurts when pressed with a finger, causing pain around it as well as referred pain to other areas. It causes the muscle in which it’s located to be weak and have limited flexibility.”
Contrastingly, latent trigger points aren’t as painful, though they can remain within the muscle for years at a time. “Unless you press on these trigger points and feel the tenderness, you probably won’t know they are there,” . “Most people have at least a few. Latent trigger points may persist for years after apparent recovery from injury, and while they generally don’t cause pain unless compressed, they do cause restricted movement, distorted muscle movement patterns, and stiffness and weakness of the affected muscle.”
Because of this, trigger point therapy is always helpful, even for those who don’t think they need it due to a lack of concentrated pain. “If you’ve ever thrown your back out or woken up with a painfully stiff neck, unable to turn your head, chances are that you may have some trigger points that became activated and then went back to a latent state after a few days of taking it easy,”