Muscle pain is one of the more frequent causes of dysfunction in people today. It is caused by various mechanical and postural forces that interrupt correct function of muscle tissue. Muscle tissue is a metabolically active, large organ filled with nerves. You may of heard of ‘knots’ in muscle or muscle referred to as ‘stiff’ or ‘achy,’ but a lesser known terminology and fact, is that many muscle ailments involve Trigger Points. Trigger Points are defined as “discrete, focal, hyperirritable spots located in a taut band of skeletal muscle.” Trigger Points are painful on compression and can produce local and referred pain.
What happens to the muscle: metabolic changes in the area of the Trigger Point cause nerve irritants (bradykinin, serotonin, hyaluronic acid, etc.) to accumulate.
Due to the accumulation of these waste products, the blood supply to the area is decreased causing a tight band of muscle fibres and ischemia, which in turn, results in pain, achiness and discomfort. Sometimes an area can become so decreased of a sufficient blood and oxygen supply that it ‘turns off’ altogether as with frozen shoulder. And on occasions Trigger Points can mimic conditions such a Carpal Tunnel, Sciatica and many more common musculoskeletal conditions.
History of Trigger Points:
Dr. Janet G. Travell, President Kennedy’s physician, was an influential figure in the recognition and treatment of Trigger Points in people with myofascial pain syndromes. President Kennedy consulted Dr Travell in the height of his political career for back pain that radiated into his leg and made walking difficult. Dr Travell’s Trigger Point therapy was successful and relieved President Kennedy of much pain and discomfort.
Do you Have Trigger Points?
If your muscles feel like the following, you might have Trigger Points:
- Muscles are sensitive to pressure
- Stiff, tight, spasmic feeling
- Dull, aching, or burning pain in muscles
- Muscle imbalances
- Limited range-of-motion movement
Heat eases the pain Trigger points are caused by many forces, such as acute or chronic muscular overload due to trauma, repetitive strain, poor posture and even emotional stress.
Most trigger points can be reduced or extirpated by manual Trigger Point therapy (ischemic compression). Physical Therapists can initiate treatment of this muscle through the use of myofascial release techniques, trigger point work, heat, and instruction with a home exercise program.
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