Have Ongoing Muscle Pain? Try Trigger Point Therapy

Massage therapists have superpowers when it comes to ungluing tight muscles. But not everyone can afford to see them regularly. So if you’re dealing with injuries or pain, learning how to release trigger points should be your first stop. It’s easy, costs nothing, and doesn’t take long. This post will tell you what you need to know to start working on your trigger points.

The methods in this post are from Clair Davies’ The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook. I’ve only scratched the surface of her work. If you’re dealing with chronic pain, tight muscles, or anything in between, I highly recommend reading her book.

What Is a Trigger Point?

I like Clair Davies’ definition best: “A trigger point is a grumpy little spot in a taut band of muscle tissue that hurts when you press on it.”

If you want the technical version that’ll put you to sleep, Travell and Simons define a trigger point as:

A hyperirritable spot in skeletal muscle that is associated with a hypersensitive palpable nodule in a taut band. This spot is painful on compression and can give rise to characteristic referred pain, referred tenderness, motor dysfunction, and autonomic phenomena.

Because trigger points form in specific places where the motor nerve comes into the muscle to tell it to move, locations in the body have been well documented. Here’s a great video explaining trigger points.

Trigger Points Refer Pain

When we develop trigger points they refer pain to other areas of the body. This is why you need to work upstream and downstream of a problem area.

Here’s an example of trigger points and their pain referral zones:

Image source: Golf Ball Massage

Image source: Golf Ball Massage

Low back pain is a common problem that could be caused by tight hips or other muscle imbalances. If you simply massage the painful area it might feel better, but it’s not addressing the cause.

How to Find Trigger Points

You’ll need a book or resource showing the pain referral zones and associated trigger points. Once you’ve identified where the pain is coming from, there will be common trigger points in different muscles that could be the cause.

Let’s stick with the lower back example. If we look at The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook, we see common muscles causing pain are:

  • Gluteus medius
  • Psoas/iliacus
  • Deep spinal muscles
  • Superficial spinal muscles
  • Quadratus lumborum
  • Gluteus maximus
  • Rectus abdominis
  • Soleus
  • Pelvic floor muscles

Muscles are listed in the order of most to least likely to be causing pain. So, by targeting muscles like the gluteus medius and psoas, you can test if your low back pain improves. If you’ve found a trigger point, it should get less painful after massaging it regularly. 

Illustrations and charts will sometimes put you in the right spot and other times in the general area. You may not always be able to feel the tight band that’s a trigger point. But you’ll be able to feel tight or painful spots in the muscle. Just roll a lacrosse ball over  a muscle until you find a spot that hurts most when you press on it. Then get to work  massaging it.

Self-Massage Technique to Release Trigger Points

If you’ve managed to find some sore spots that could be causing your pain, here are the massage guidelines from The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook:

  1. Use a tool if possible and save your hands.
  2. Use deep stroking massage.
  3. Massage with short, repeated strokes from one side of the painful spot to the other.
  4. Do the massage stroke in one direction for best ergonomics.
  5. Do the massage stroke slowly.
  6. Aim at a pain level of 5 on a scale of 1 to 10.
  7. Limit massage to 10 to 12 slow strokes per trigger point.
  8. Work a trigger point three to six times per day.
  9. If you get no relief, you may be working the wrong spot.

For massage tools, you can use a lacrosse ball, tennis ball, Thera Cane, Backnobber (what a name), foam roller, The Stick, or just about any other tool for self-massage.

Do Something—Anything!

Don’t just consume information. If you’ve read this far, I’m assuming you find this post useful. You’ve now got two choices: 1) close the screen and think ‘that’s nice’ and move on with your day. Or 2) find your trigger points and see if massage helps. Start out with one body area. And as Nike says, just do it! Decision creates action. Action creates results.

I Need Your Help

I’ve also got a huge favour to ask of you. No, I don’t want your money. But will happily accept it! I’m trying to get this blog off the ground and I can’t do it without your help. Simply sharing this post on social media (you’re so close to the share buttons—look down below) or emailing it to a friend makes a HUGE difference in my life. In return, I promise we can be best mates and you can reach out anytime. Seriously. If you need help with any health, fitness, or Jedi Knight goals you can contact me here.

You can also share some love by adding a comment below. Let me know if you regularly foam roll or use other self-massage techniques.

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