What is Myofascial Trigger Point Therapy and how can it benefit me?
To understand what Myofascial Trigger Point Therapy is, we must first define a trigger point. A Trigger Point is a hyper-irritable section in muscle tissue that, when compressed, is locally tender and, if sufficiently hypersensitive, gives rise to referred pain and tenderness. Usually these points are located in a section of tight muscle tissue. Trigger Points arise from many different perpetuating factors, some of which include: poor posture, repetitive muscle use, poor sleeping habits, lack of hydration/nutrition, and an inactive lifestyle. All these things (and more) add up to a dysfunctional muscle that is chronically tightened, shortened, and can’t “turn off” or relax. These shortened muscles fill with various pain emitting chemicals that localize in a “knot,” or Trigger Point. These chemicals then disrupt the muscle’s nerve signal and redirect a pain signal to another area of the body.
Myofascial Trigger Point Therapy is the release of those points. Trigger Points can be evaluated and located by postural evaluation and muscle range of motion testing. They are then addressed by using manual techniques such as compression, lengthening and stretching the muscle tissue to restore normal range of motion. A frequent topic of discussion is why Trigger Points are tender and sensitive. This is because the muscle is filled with chemicals that, when in the process of removal from the muscle, evoke a pain response. After these chemicals are flushed from the muscle, subsequent bodywork should not be painful. A skilled therapist can balance the amount of pressure needed to alleviate the trigger point, while staying within the patient’s comfort level.
At Pro Massage Health Solutions, Myofascial Trigger Point Therapy is typically performed over a series of sessions consisting of a thorough evaluation of the client’s posture, key muscle tests to find range of motion deficiencies (an indication of Trigger Points), hands on therapy to address those deficiencies and restore normal, pain-free, movement. After the therapy, a self-care plan of treatment is customized for the individual patient’s needs to ensure maximum results, and future sessions are outlined.
The practice of self-care is essential for addressing Trigger Points. After a Myofascial Trigger Point Therapy session, the patient should continue self-care at home to prevent the Trigger Point from reforming and to keep the muscle(s) healthy. Self-care practices include: stretching, compression with hands or therapy tools, and the use of heat or cool packs to keep the muscle loose and flexible. These techniques are usually performed daily to reinforce the muscles “memory” to remain loose and agile.
This is a picture of the pain referral pattern for the trapezius muscle. The black X’s represent the probable location of Trigger Points, and the red areas are where the point refers pain to. In this example, pain from this trigger point would most likely be described (by patient) as a headache or migraine, when in actuality, Trigger Points are referring pain to the temples and back of the head and neck. Although there may not be “pain” where the trigger point is located, the pain is felt in the referral area.
This is why it is difficult to diagnose many of today’s common ailments. It is also a leading cause of misdiagnoses and unnecessary treatments or surgeries in today’s medical society. Luckily, most Trigger Points follow a general pattern; so by comparing “where it hurts” to Myofascial pain referral patterns, the therapist can usually narrow the culprit down to a few probable areas of focus, and create a plan to relieve and even eliminate chronic pain.