If you’ve been around massage therapy for any amount of time, you’ve probably heard the term “trigger point”, perhaps without knowing precisely what it is. I’d like to shed just a bit of light on trigger points and, hopefully, point you (pun intended!) in the right direction of treatment.
A trigger point, as defined by the American Massage Therapy Association, is a localized spasm or knot in the muscle tissue that may cause pain to be referred to more distant parts of the body. It is often exquisitely tender; more so than any other spot nearby. It is different from a normal muscle knot because of that tenderness and also because it refers pain to other parts of the body via nerve pathways. That’s why a therapist may treat your hip when your ankle hurts.
Much clinical research has been done by the famous team of Drs David Simon and Janet Travell. They developed an accurate map of trigger points and the possible pain referral points. It’s easy to look at the area where you have pain and find the spot where there may be a trigger point.
Treatment of trigger points, though often uncomfortable, is not difficult and can be done at home. Basically, pressure is used to release the knot in the muscle fiber. Firm digital (or finger) pressure is applied for 30 to 90 seconds and released when the tenderness has lessened. This may need to be done several times in a localized area.
One great resource for home care is “The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook” by Claire Davies and Amber Davies. There are many self-care trigger point books, but this one is the leader of the pack and a great, inexpensive way to begin trigger point therapy at home.
For more info, make an appointment with your therapist and talk about trigger points before your session. There are many nuances of treatment that they will be able to share with you. You may also request trigger point therapy during a session. Good luck!