Massage Therapy & Trigger Points
- Tuesday, 05 July 2016
By Anna Williams
Clients usually seek out massage because they are experiencing pain which does not go away by itself. Sometimes they are unaware of what’s happened to cause the pain, and can’t work out how to relieve it. As massage therapists we always aim to find the original source of the pain, and very often we discover that it is coming from elsewhere in the body, sometimes from a place that the client had no idea was a problem! This is when we start to consider trigger points.
What is a trigger point? A trigger point is a nodule within a taut band of muscle tissue or fascia. It is painful to touch, but can be a very small, specific point- which is why we are sometimes unaware that they exist at all. They are muscle fibres which are stuck in a contracted position, normally caused by muscle stress, which can be from poor posture, a repetitive movement, or overwork. Think of it as the epicentre of a tight muscle. When a trigger point is found and pressed on by your massage therapist it will refer (send) pain to another part of your body, and this can be the moment that you realise, for example, that this trigger point in your upper back has been the cause of your arm pain all along!
How do trigger points work? When a trigger point has developed in an area of soft tissue, it can become more and more problematic if left untreated. Eventually it can get to a stage where it is described as ‘active’, which means it will be sending pain to another part of your body without even having any pressure applied to it. There are general patterns we can look at to give us an idea of the most common areas which link a trigger point to another specific part of the body. For example, a trigger point in your upper trapezius (which covers your neck and shoulders) will often be the cause of tension headaches, and heel pain can actually come from your soleus muscle, deep within your calf. But they can also be from somewhere totally unexpected, and a high quality massage from an experienced therapist is the best way to locate and treat these irritating little knots!
How do we work with them? Once your massage therapist has located an active trigger point, and established with you that it is referring pain to your problem area, we will use a range of techniques to encourage it to release and relax. We will use varied, specific pressure to help flush toxins out, and encourage new, fresh blood to enter. We will help you use your breathing to help the tissues relax, so you will literally feel the tension melting away. We may use stretches to encourage the tissue to release and lengthen.
How will deactivating trigger points feel? Although the work may be uncomfortable at times, we will always work within your pain threshold to make sure you receive an effective but very bearable treatment. In fact, when a trigger point is being released we often hear it described as a ‘good’ or ‘relieving pain’, and finally having the source of the pain acknowledged can actually be very enjoyable! During the course of the massage you will feel the level of pain caused by the trigger point decreasing significantly, and when we return to the trigger point, having worked on the surrounding areas, you should really feel the difference.
What happens afterwards? You may be advised to use something cold on the area that has been worked on following your treatment, as deep work on a trigger point which has been there for a long time can cause some irritation. Within a day or two you will start feeling the benefits of the release more and more, and this is when you will really begin to enjoy the improvement in your body, with reduced pain and increased mobility. Your therapist will also advise you on if/when you should come back for a follow-up treatment, to ensure you get the very best and longest-lasting results. It is usually also a great idea to have some follow-up work on surrounding areas which may have been affected by the trigger point.
All the therapists here at The Massage Centre are highly skilled at tracking down and releasing trigger points, to give you the very best results, which will last much longer than most general massages, or treatments which only focus on the area where you are currently feeling pain. We also love the challenge and seeing the results! So call us now to find out how we can help to make a real change to you and your body.