Although trigger points are not completely understood, one theory, by Dr Janet Travell, suggests that when muscle fibers are damaged they become contracted creating a tight band in the muscle tissue (this is the trigger point). A trigger point can lay dormant in muscle tissue for years until one or more perpetuating factors cause it to become an active trigger point. These factors can include poor posture, nutritional inadequacies, anxiety and poor sleep among others, but the ultimate result of all of these is shortening of muscles or increased muscle tension.
When a trigger point becomes active you experience constant pain, decreased flexibility and even decreased strength. However the pain is not always local to the trigger point. Trigger points around an injury can magnify the injury pain; or trigger points can mimic something else entirely, like a repetitive strain injury, nausea, or headaches. This is why myofascial trigger points are the most common cause of aches and pains, people just don’t always realize they are the cause.
So what do you do if you have an active trigger point? First and foremost book a massage treatment ASAP, there are specific techniques your massage therapist will use to treat your trigger point and alleviate your discomfort. At home there are a couple of things you can do as well: apply heat to the affected area; for trigger points in your back or neck lay with a tennis ball directly under the trigger point, the tennis ball will provide ischemic compression which is a massage technique; gently stretch the affected muscles; gradual strengthening of chronically affected muscles; work on reducing or eliminating the perpetuating factors; and work on correcting postural imbalances.
Now you know that trigger points are the most common cause of aches and pains, you don’t have to suffer needlessly. Call your RMT, dig out a tennis ball, apply heat and you will be on the road to recovery quickly!