What are Trigger Points?

massage, trigger points, neck pain, back painHave you ever tried to massage your own aching muscles, only to feel like you’ve found rocks underneath your skin? When most people feel their muscles tight like this, they tend to call those spots “knots”. Now, truthfully, there are no knots in your muscles, they aren’t tangled up or anything. These super tight areas of muscles are what massage therapists refer to as “trigger points”.

The technical definition for a trigger point is “a firm, highly irritable spot in a taut band of muscle fibers or fascia characterized by exquisite tenderness, referred pain, and a loss of range of motion.”
But that’s a lot of technical mumbo-jumbo, what you really need to know is this: trigger points are tight, painful spots in your muscles that cause pain elsewhere.

Have you ever had neck pain so bad it caused a headache? Or have you received a neck rub from your spouse, and they hit a spot that seemed to make your whole arm go numb? Those are all trigger points, and we all have them.
Trigger points are usually created by initial activity, stress, or trauma– things like a new workout routine, a car accident, or starting a new job with new and different demands on your body. But those trigger points stay with continual stress and patterns of activity– like incorrect ergonomics at your desk, chronic illness, and improper form while working out.

The most common way to treat these is through trigger point massage. Your massage therapist will apply pressure directly to these trigger points until the muscle begins to release and relax. Because these knots tend to be so painful and irritable, it’s important that you communicate with your therapist– is the pressure to much or too little? Has the pain stopped shooting into your head? If he moved a little to the left, would that feel better?

Not all of your trigger points will go away with just one massage session. Some of these have been in place for weeks, months, or years, and it is pretty optimistic to think they’ll be resolved in 60 minutes. But with a consistent massage regimen, you and your therapist should see improvement within a few sessions!

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