So, just what was going on?
The inside of our bodies are covered with soft tissue called fascia, which covers our organs, muscles, nerves and blood vessels. The type of fascia that covers our muscles is called myofascia. When we overuse or improperly use (such as sitting at desks for long hours) muscles, the myofascia can tear and adhere together. These adhesions are called trigger points.
Trigger points cause referred pain
Trigger points can cause stiffness, tenderness and pain, not just in the spot of the adhesion, but also radiating from the spot. This is called referred pain. A trigger point in one part of the body can cause pain in another part of the body. Sometimes the pain is minor, but other times the pain is quite severe. For example, a trigger point on the trapezius (shoulder) can refer pain up the neck and head causing a headache and even trigger a classic migraine.
There are a number of factors that can cause trigger point formation, including lack of exercise, poor posture, repetitive motion, physical imbalance (such as leg length inequality), joint disorders, poor sleep hygiene and vitamin deficiencies. Many times trigger points form as a secondary symptom to other conditions such as arthritis and bulging discs.
Other times, people are diagnosed with conditions that are, in fact, chronic myofascial pain. Some of these conditions are fibromyalgia, headaches, tennis elbow, sciatica, plantar fasciitis, tendinitis, frozen shoulder, carpal tunnel syndrome, tendinitis and others.
Treating trigger points
There are a number of ways to treat trigger points, including acupuncture, mechanical vibration, pulsed ultrasound, injection, dry-needling, low-level laser therapy, stretching routines, and others. Massage is one of the most natural and effective. Just one massage treatment can greatly relieve the pain and stiffness experienced from very tight trigger points.
An experienced massage therapist is trained to quickly locate trigger points on an individual’s body. The therapist will use several fingers to apply pressure on and around the points to break up the knot or adhesion that has formed. Depending on how tight the knot is, you may experience some mild to moderate pain with the pressure, but you should communicate with the therapist during the treatment – you should not feel extreme pain. When you feel extreme pain, you will tense your muscles in reaction, making the situation even worse. Depending on the severity of the trigger point, you may need to return several times to make certain that the trigger point has been deactivated.
After your massage, it is very important that you drink extra fluids to help release the toxins into the blood stream. Your therapist may also suggest that you soak in an Epsom salt bath to help reduce soreness.