But what exactly is a trigger point? In simple terms, it’s a knot in the muscle. These spots can occur all over the body. There is an app (called Trigger Points funnily enough) that shows the most of the common ones and where they refer to. You can find some common ones for yourself if you had a good prod around your shoulders you could find some and they can be associated with pain elsewhere. For example trigger points on the shoulder blade refer commonly up into the neck and down the arm. A true trigger point will refer. The pain is often referred to as spreading or radiating, whereas tender spots do not.
Why do they occur? They are usually caused by trauma albeit sometimes microtrauma. Poor posture, too much (or too little) exercise, joint problems can be some of the causes, anything that might cause stress to the muscles.
How do they present? As people as get older, often accept a few aches and pains. The neck and shoulders are a common place for trigger points to occur, they may present as shoulder pain or tightness or even tennis headaches. People may notice a limited range of movement in a joint and this may be due to a trigger point. Many of you will have experienced me putting pressure on a spot in your shoulder when you are doing chalk circles, and see how that has caused the muscle to release and your range of movement to improve.
Well, you may have them and just accept their presence without addressing them. As my private class members will know, having trained as a sports massage therapist in the past and in Trigger Point Pilates a couple of years ago. It is something that I do address in class and people do notice the difference even though it is not necessarily comfortable at the time.
How do we treat them? If there is a reoccurring stress or overuse of a muscle group, we should try to eliminate that and any other identified cause. Drugs can be used to treat the pain and relax the muscles. Antidepressants as well as anti-inflammatory drugs, amongst other things, can be prescribed for severe cases. A more focused approach would be by the sports injury/massage therapists, osteopaths, physiotherapists, some chiropractors, acupuncture (also called dry needling), ultrasound and the use of heat and cold.
As I mentioned earlier we can release them ourselves. I favour the softer version of the spiky ball as the hard balls can cause trauma to the area and the prickles on the softer ones stimulate the circulation. Guide the ball to the desired place so that you can apply pressure to the spot. Press until you get about a 9/10 for the ahhhh factor (or your eyes cross) and wait until it eases off to about a 5 then push into it again. Repeat 2-3 times and wiggle around a bit if you like – little wiggles. This method whilst effective can be short-lived and need several applications. It is though very cheap!