People have used various types of massage for thousands of years for both relaxation and the relief of pain, and as science has progressed, so too has the art of massage therapy. Today, trigger point massage is increasingly popular. If you’ve ever experienced sore, tight, and tired muscles, it could be exactly the innovative treatment you need.
Trigger Point Fundamentals
A trigger point is a group of tight, contracted muscle fibers within a larger muscle. Professionals sometimes refer to them as “nodules” or “knots”. It’s still not clear exactly what causes them, but based on research done so far, a widely accepted hypothesis is that the body might release an excess of a specific neurotransmitter called acetylcholine.
The elevated level of this neurotransmitter causes depolarization in the muscle fibers, which makes the muscle contract. Overuse or injury likely links to the high amount of acetylcholine. Other elements, such as poor nutrition, might contribute to the formation of trigger points, as well.
Trigger points can be either active or latent. The first type typically is tender, causing pain when pressed or stimulated. They have a pattern of referred pain. Latent trigger points can remain “dormant” for an extended period of time and generally are not an issue unless pressed or aggravated by another stimulus, such as an injury.
Trigger Point Massage Offers Relief
Trigger point massage is a type of massage designed to get trigger points to relax. The basic idea is to use various parts of the body–fingertips, palms, or even elbows–to apply firm but gentle and deep pressure to the affected muscle tissues (deep tissue massage) for up to a minute and a half at a time.
Alternately, a therapist can use small, kneading strokes, ideally in the direction parallel to the muscle fibers. Another way can be using one of the best deep tissue massager machines available in the market. The subsequent flushing of waste and relaxation of the trigger points theoretically relieves inflammation and pain, including the referred pain and other symptoms (e.g., numbness) caused by the pressure trigger points can directly or indirectly place on nerves.
Experts think it also can improve flexibility, range of motion, and strength, which can contribute to better performance and safety.
Trigger point massage is often effective at reducing or eliminating localized discomfort or other symptoms–that is, you get relief where the trigger point is located. In some instances, however, the majority of the pain is referred to, meaning you have to trace the discomfort to a completely different area of the body. Although this might seem like looking for a proverbial needle in a haystack, doctors have been able to “map” where trigger points in specific locations can cause pain.
For instance, they know that trigger points in the scalene muscles within the neck can refer pain down to the upper chest and back, as well as to the arms and hands. Similarly, they know that trigger points in the trapezius can cause headaches. The ability to trigger points to connect to symptoms elsewhere in the body means that your doctor and therapist both have to differentiate between the knots and other possible conditions.
Why Go to a Professional for Trigger Point Massage?
It is completely possible to perform trigger point massage on yourself to an extent. In fact, in many cases, there’s absolutely no reason to spend money on a session if you can address the issue with a little self-care. Even so, professional treatment can allow you to relax more fully, as you don’t have to exert yourself to perform the therapy.
Additionally, professionals can reach trigger points that might be a struggle to reach on your own. Professional therapists also are trained to look for other conditions that might connect to your symptoms. They can refer you to a physician if they suspect there is a deeper, underlying problem, or conversely, they can put you at ease, confirming your doctor’s assessment that there likely isn’t anything else wrong.
These points aside, getting a trigger point massage can benefit your emotional and mental health, as you know that you’re doing something good for your body.
A trigger point is a small point in a muscle where the muscle fibers are contracted and tight. Overuse and injury are likely the main causes of these “knots,” although more research is necessary to be sure.
Trigger point massage gets these nodules to relax and, subsequently, results in a reduction or elimination in pain, swelling, and other symptoms such as numbness. Other areas such as flexibility also can improve. You can do a certain amount of trigger point massage on yourself, but for the best results and peace of mind, visit a trigger point massage therapist near you, coordinating the therapy with your regular doctor.