Trigger points are hyper-irritable spots located in muscles. They will often feel like nodules (knots). Trigger points develop in muscles which have been overused or injured due to poor posture, over exertion, trauma or surgery, creating muscle tension and muscle shortening.
Trigger points can be quite painful when compressed and can refer pain and tenderness to other areas of the body. For example, when an individual sits at a computer for long periods of time, they often alter their posture creating a strain on the muscles at the back of the neck and shoulders. If this strain continues over a period of time the muscles that are strained will develop trigger points. The trapezius muscle (traps) commonly has trigger points. When these trigger points form, they will refer pain in a predictable pattern as seen in the picture.
Trigger points can produce symptoms such as pain, headaches, ear aches, ringing in the ears jaw pain, watery eyes and/or a twitch response.
Trigger point therapy is used to treat these hyper-sensitive nodules (knots) located in the skeletal muscle.
The therapist will warm the muscle tissue with a series of massage strokes before treating the trigger point. He/she will then locate the trigger point and apply a constant pressure or an intermittent pressure on the painful nodule. There may be some discomfort or pain during the treatment but your therapist will work with a pressure that is comfortable and tolerable for you. A pain scale of 0 – 10 is commonly used with 6-7 being tolerable pain for you. This tolerable pain means that you will not hold your breath or pull away from the therapist during treatment. If the pain exceeds your tolerable number, communicate this to your therapist immediately. The therapist will hold the pressure until the trigger point releases or there is a reduction in the amount of pain it is eliciting. Once the trigger point is released, the therapist will sooth the area, stretch the muscle and apply a form of heat to the tissue. You will often be sent home with heat hydrotherapy as home care.
Trigger point therapy is often used in conjunction with other techniques during your massage therapy treatment.