Muscular pain is something we have all experienced at some point in our life, whether it is after physical activity or after sitting for an extended period of time. In the long run, pain can lead to many physical problems. For those of you who go for massage therapy on a regular basis, chances are your massage therapist mentioned the term “trigger point” during a session. What is a trigger point?
A trigger point is best described as sarcomeres that are stuck in a contracted position forming a hard and hypersensitive spot in a skeletal muscle (Physiopedia, 2020). It is a small muscle contraction that can be felt as a tiny nodule when it is superficial. It can actively cause pain or no pain unless touched which refers to a different area of the body. A trigger point can exist in every muscle of the body. It keeps your muscles tight and weak, which restricts your range of motion.
Let’s have a quick muscle physiology lesson to understand how they are formed. Muscles fibers are made of sarcomeres that contract to create movement (Akkerman, 2013). Sarcomeres can become overstimulated and unable to release from their contracted state. Multiple sarcomeres in that contracted state will lead to the formation of a trigger point. The overstimulation of the sarcomeres is often caused by:
- poor body posture
- muscles overuse
- vitamin deficiencies
- stress, anxiety, and depression
- lack of exercises
- lack of sleep
- joint issues (Physiopedia, 2020).
When sarcomeres are kept in a contracted state for too long, the blood flow in that specific area stops which leads to oxygen starvation and an accumulation of waste products resulting in irritation of the trigger point which will then cause pain. Your nervous system will respond to the pain by stimulating you to not use the affected muscles and they will shorten (Tight muscle). According to Dr. Gunn, shortening in muscles acting across a joint increase joint pressure, upset alignment, and can precipitate pain in the joint (Physioworks, n.d)
Luckily, there are many ways to treat trigger points. One of the most effective methods used by massage therapists to treat them consists of applying ischemic pressure on the affected area followed by release (Pt Health, 2018). It will help bring enriched blood to the area and increase the availability of oxygen leading to faster tissue repair.
By Olivier Pere, R.M.T
- Akkerman, M. (2013, June 06). trigger point explained with animation. Retrieved from Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sltGyJvbvWw
- Physiopedia. (2020). Trigger Points. Retrieved from Physiopedia: https://www.physio-pedia.com/Trigger_Points
- Physioworks. (n.d). What is a Trigger Point? Retrieved from Physioworks: https://physioworks.com.au/FAQRetrieve.aspx?ID=31232
- Pt Health. (2018). Untying The Knot: What Trigger Point Massage Therapy Can Do For You. Retrieved from Pt Health: https://www.pthealth.ca/blog/untying-the-knot-what-trigger-point-massage-therapy-can-do-for-you/
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