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  • Dr. Mark Freund

How Trigger Point Therapy Works

Updated: May 20, 2021

how trigger point therapy works

Myofascial trigger point therapy is the treatment of painful, tense areas that occur in the muscles. Fascia muscles and other types of muscles in the body affecting the myofascial trigger points are subjected to the same therapy as any other form of pain relief.

What Is a Trigger Point?

A trigger point is sensitive to pressure. The muscle tissues are often stiff, causing unbearable pain. Trigger points can be the center of pain that, later on, spreads to other parts of the body as a "bump" or tense muscle. Sometimes muscle stiffness or the muscle lumps may get stuck in tensed muscle ligaments.

physical therapist doing trigger point injection

Trigger points are painful and stiff, and they can spread even if you don't press them. Just be cautious as not to assume that every spot or bump on the body is a trigger. Sometimes abnormal structures are so small and embedded that they are difficult to detect reliably. There are many different types of trigger points on the body. Some of them are due to myofascial pain syndrome, which can be debilitating.

Although there are many causes of pain, a trigger point diagnosis is simple enough for most people. There are times when you would have stiffness in certain muscles, but it does not necessarily mean that you have a trigger point.

Myofascial Trigger Point

A myofascial trigger point can easily be identified as a painful muscle region. It is a tense muscle that is often triggered by inflammation of the muscle tissue. This usually happens due to the overuse of muscle while lifting heavy bodies. It can also be triggered by the injury you may have acquired in the past or the psychological trauma that you may have gone through.

The muscle fibers contract and become chronically shortened. One theory suggests that the oxygen and nutrients supplied to the trigger point are constantly affected.

Muscle Pain and Myofascial Trigger Points

Myofascial trigger points are a common cause of chronic musculoskeletal pain, also known as myofascial pain. They are found throughout the body and require immediate treatment to help relieve chronic muscle pain. The origin of the pain and the area in which it manifests may be different. The trigger point can be painful under direct pressure but indicates a neighboring pain of an underlying symptom. The pain mentioned is a characteristic feature of the myofascial trigger points, and the basis for the name "trigger point" is that the area causing the pain elsewhere refers to the area in question. For example, back pain may be related to a trigger point in the abdominal muscles, while headaches may be related to a trigger point in a neck muscle.

examining trigger points

Myofascial pain syndrome (MPS) is the most common cause of chronic pain in men and women in the US and Europe. It causes inflammation of the muscle fibers, which can cause pain and fatigue. This can be a cause of tight ligaments, which can be easily felt by trained doctors. The treatment might cause some discomfort or pain to the recipient. Persistent muscle contraction can also lead to poor blood circulation in the region. Blood vessels appear to be compressed, resulting in inadequate oxygen supply to the muscle. If oxygen does not reach the muscles properly, it will prevent its proper healing, causing intense damage to the muscle. If the disease becomes chronic, the muscles can ache and contract further. When it leads to persistent contractions that cannot resolve themselves, it results in injury to the sarcoplasmic reticulum. The sarcoplasmic reticulum is the membrane system of muscle fibers, and one of the functions of this system is the transport and storage of calcium ions.

applying pressure on patients back

Calcium ions trigger muscle fiber contraction, which can lead to injury to the sarcoplasmic reticulum receptor system and cause muscle contraction. This can cause muscle overload (for example, through injury or overuse) and lead to microlesions, a condition in which muscle fibers, muscle cells, and organs combine, causing the sarcoplasmic reticulum to collapse.

Microlesions occur when muscle fibers and muscle cell organs contract in the muscles, which can occur due to stress, injury, or lack of oxygen. As it involves the lack of circulation of oxygen and the supply of muscle fibers, these ions compress the smaller blood vessels around them. This combination of increased metabolic requirements and lack of blood circulation as a trigger is called an energy crisis.

History of Trigger Points

Research on muscle pain dates back to the 15th century, and it has had many names over the decades, but myofascial trigger points (TRPs) are the widely accepted label. For a long time, trigger points were also informally known as muscle nodes or muscle knots. However, the most acceptable term is myofascial pain or "myofascial trigger points." The first to propose the term "Fascial trigger point" in 1942 was Dr. Janet Travell, MD (1901-1997), an American medical doctor and the personal rheumatologist of US president John F. Kennedy. Dr. Travell joined forces with Dr. David G. Simons, MD, to further explore the role of trigger points in muscle pain and pain management. In 1983, Simons and Travell published their work entitled "Theory of the myofascial trigger point and its treatment" in the Journal of Physiology and Medicine.

In 1960, the book appeared to be a breakthrough in the world of rheumatology, orthopedic physiotherapy. It changed our understanding and treatment of chronic pain. Trigger point therapy has been used for a wide range of conditions, from arthritis to back pain, joint arthritis, osteoarthritis, and multiple sclerosis.

Does Trigger Point Therapy Work?

There are many possible causes of unexplained pain, but trigger points are an interesting piece of the puzzle for many people that is always up for debate. This could mean that trigger points can be reliably diagnosed.

young woman with muscle pain

There are several ways to deal with them. A chiropractor or a manual therapist is a certified trigger point specialist who can release painful and tense areas in the muscles to help achieve long-term results by applying various techniques to treat trigger points, such as acupuncture and manual therapy. They have proven to be very reliable, as suggested in literature and clinical practice. Even trained physicians with extensive experience in myofascial trigger points also recommend myofascial trigger point therapy.

Myofascial trigger point therapy consists of various techniques which may include rubbing or pressing on the trigger point to help relieve the pain by addressing muscle stiffness. Manual trigger point therapy may also involve targeted manipulation with dry needling. It uses an acupuncture needle that is inserted into the trigger points and has also been shown to be highly effective for healing and reducing pain.

Our Chiropractic Solutions

If you suffer from tightness in your muscles that can be quite painful at times, trigger point therapy can be a great treatment for you. The benefits of trigger point therapy include releasing constricted areas in the muscles and alleviating muscle pain. This therapy can be beneficial for you as it offers instant relief from pain. Contact Natural Care Chiropractic to learn more about this therapy and how you can effectively utilize it in your daily life.


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