Do you know what causes most of our common aches and pain? Trigger points.
Trigger points are small contraction knots in the muscles. They may cause neck and jaw pain, headaches, low back pain, and many joint pain problems mistakenly diagnosed as arthritis or tendonitis. Trigger points are linked to a variety of other health issues, such as genital pain, nausea, heartburn, and sinus congestion.
Trigger points are primarily caused by muscle abuse and can be perpetuated by improper body posture, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, metabolic disorders, and certain psychological factors.
The good news is that trigger points can be easily fixed. The sad news is that there aren’t a substantial number of health professionals versed in trigger point healing, nor are there many studies being done on the muscular causes of pain. But there’s great potential for more discovery in this area!
How Trigger Points Cause Pain
Trigger points are small knots in muscle tissue that feel tighter or denser than the surrounding muscle tissue. Pain results from the constant tension in these “knots” which restrict the circulation of blood in their immediate area.
The resulting deprivation of oxygen and nutrients to that part of the body, as well as the accumulation of the by-products of metabolism, all contribute to the pain and can perpetuate it for months or even years. However, the resulting pain can be treated by deactivating those trigger points.
What Can You Do About Trigger Points?
There are different ways to deactivate trigger points, such as spray, and stretch, and injection. In this post, we’ll focus on self-applied trigger point massage.
Trigger point massage accomplishes three things. First, it breaks the feedback loop that maintains the muscle contraction; second, it increases circulation restricted by the trigger point; and third, it stretches the knotted muscle fibers.
Self-applied massage allows you to control when, where, and how much treatment you receive. You’re in control of the intensity of the pressure. You also benefit from daily massage sessions. All of this goes a long way toward living a relatively pain-free life!
How to Self-Massage Trigger Points
Here are three easy-to-find, easy-to-treat trigger points that cause common pains in the neck, ankles, and chest.
Neck Pain: We’ll be massaging the trapezius, which has more than 5 trigger points in itself. For now, focus on treating the one nestled in the angle of the neck.
With either hand, reach over to the opposite side of your neck. This trigger point is right under the skin, and can easily be found with a pinch of the muscle between your fingers. The trigger point feels like a taut band. Massage it by rolling the “knot” between your thumb and the first two fingers. If you can’t find it right away, try turning your head a little to the opposite side of the side you’re treating, and feel for the trigger point just at the angle of the neck.
Ankle pain: Ankle pain can be caused by trigger points in the calf and around the ankle joint. They may also cause numbness in the lower leg, ankle, and the top of the foot. One of the trigger points responsible for this pain can be found about a hand’s width down from the knee at the front of the calf. When seated, you can feel the trigger point by isolated contraction. With your hand on your calf, point your toes, and turn the sole of your foot inward at the same time. Feel for the trigger point along the protruding muscle. Massage the trigger points with paired thumbs.
Chest pain: Pain from the trigger point in the serratus anterior muscle (a shoulder muscle located under the arm) can cause painful “stitches in the side,” breast tenderness, or make it painful to breathe deeply. Bad cases of these trigger points can also cause headaches, jaw pain, and dizziness, as well as pain in the side and the low mid-back.
You can find the trigger point on the most prominent rib underneath your arm, a couple of inches down from the armpit. If you have any trouble locating the trigger point, search the whole rib area up to your armpit. once you find the trigger point, use your fingertips to stroke and massage the area.
Trigger points may cause us pain; but by treating them correctly, they make it possible for us to live a relatively pain-free life!
*For further reading, as well as a highly comprehensive guide to self-treatment of trigger points, check out The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook: Your Self-Treatment Guide for Pain Relief, Third Edition, by Clair Davies, NCTMB, and Amber Davies, CMTPT, LMT.