Maybe you have heard a bit about trigger points, but for many people it’s not quite clear what they are and how they develop.
This is why we would like to present here what you should know about trigger points.
What defines a trigger point?
The secret lies in the word, as the point itself may not cause any problems, but triggers pain near him or in a distant part of the body.
A trigger point is a small, local muscle spasm, that has the ability to project pain into distant areas. The reason for the development of a trigger point is usually an overload of the muscle fibres. It can arise by a sudden trauma, for example during sports, or can develop slowly over time. Typical causes are one-sided strains on muscles and inadequate posture, all part of everyday life.
The projection of the pain often makes it difficult to discover the true cause, as both patient and doctor are misled at first.
Example sciatic pain
Sciatic pain is a frequently occurring and widespread medical problem. However, it is usually misdiagnosed. Patients visit the doctor for pain radiating into the leg, who then quickly sets out looking for the cause in the lumbar spine. A pinched sciatic nerve is probably taken into consideration. It is usually followed up by MR imaging, where the doctor often finds a culprit. It is worth noting, however, that the majority of the public has one or more prolapsed vertebral discs without realizing, as these are often asymptomatic.
The doctor rates a conspicuousness on the image as confirmation of his suspicion, and follows with different treatment approaches, medication, injections or physical therapy. However, none of these are successful in the long run. The reason for that is in treating the wrong cause! The trigger point, located in the glutes and radiating pain into the leg, is invisible on the images. This makes the diagnosis very difficult. The consequences are many patients who are treated incorrectly and unsuccessfully, and who continue to experience pain.
What happens at the trigger point?
From the small area where the initial muscle spasm is located, the trigger sparks an inflammatory reaction. This causes not only pain, but also functional limitation, as the muscle is unable to work properly. The body is adapting a protective posture to disburden the affected area, increasing the workload of surrounding muscles in order to balance the deficit. In the long term, this imbalance will lead to further complications, which is the reason for so many reports of year long sufferings.
How to treat the trigger point?
Several approaches exist by now to effectively release trigger points. These include shock wave therapy, intended to release the spasm by targeted administration, as well as dry needling, during which acupuncture needles are inserted into the trigger points to release the tension and to regulate inflammation.
Another frequently applied approach is the manual treatment by a therapist, often with the help of a little massage rod in order to increase the locally applied pressure to the affected tissue. This is where the backrelease slots in perfectly, allowing you to forward your healing process independently at home.
It is of utmost importance though to identify the cause for the development of the trigger point, in order to guarantee long term and lasting pain release.
Read more about SMR – Self Myofascial Release and how to become supple and flexible!
Laura, a physiotherapist for ten years