TRIGGER POINT THERAPY
Have you ever felt like you had a crick in your neck, or a lump the size of a golf ball in your shoulder? Most likely its a knot, and at one point in time you probably pressed on it, or rubbed that particular area to help relieve the pain and tightness. While their are many massage techniques available, the most common massage technique performed to address this particular issue is called Trigger Point Therapy.
What is a Trigger Point?
According to the American Massage Therapy Association, trigger points are “hyper-irritabile tissue that is locally tender and if sufficiently
hypersensitive, will give rise to referred pain and tenderness” (Bond, 2015). What does that even mean?
Well, in simple terms, a trigger point is a specific spot on the body that either has pain or spasms. These trigger points are formed on the body in both muscular and fascial tissues as a result of muscular overload either by acute, sustained, or repetitive use. Trigger points either affect the body in that specific area, or can radiate to another part of the body.
For example, chefs are notorious for having tight forearms due to repetitive use of the muscles when cooking. Tight forearms can lead to muscle tightness, spasms, and pain either at a localized spot and/or throughout the arm and into the shoulder or just in one spot. That is what is known as a trigger point.
Benefits of trigger point therapy are of non-pain related is increasing blood circulation, removing toxins from the body, and helping to break down adhesions and scar tissue. When
trigger point massage is performed, the applied localized pressure restricts oxygen to the cells. The restriction of oxygen creates an inflammatory response. When the body has an inflammatory response, it dilates the blood vessels to increase blood to that area (Physio, 2021). This increased
blood flow brings fresh oxygenated blood to the area, flushing away toxins and waste products. Furthermore, the increased blood circulation raises the temperature of the body in that area. This
temperature allows soft tissue and muscles to relax, which creates more flexibility and movement. Between the pressure and the increased movement, this helps break down tissue fibers and realign them into normal form (Physio, 2021).
Is it right for you?
There are only a few circumstances where trigger point massage may not be the best technique to use:
Those who bruise easily or have medical conditions that make you extremely sensitive to touch, like fibromyalgia.
This does not mean trigger point massage can’t be used, it simply means the licensed massage therapist is aware and will need to adjust their technique to ensure your safety.
The majority of individuals who have received massage and bodywork have likely already received trigger point massage in at least one of their sessions. It is a safe and effective technique that can be used on most individuals, especially for those who experience acute/chronic pain, and tight muscles.
However, as with all forms of massage, it is important that you discuss your medical history with your licensed massage therapist to ensure they are using the safest and effective technique for you and your body.
Is there evidence this works?
A study performed by Moraska et al. took 56 subjects who were experiencing tension-type headaches, and randomly assigned them into two groups.
The first group was a placebo group, the other group received 12 sessions of trigger point massage therapy.
Over the course of the study, the group that received the trigger point massage therapy had a decrease in their tension-type headache and saw improvement in their quality of life compared to the placebo group (Moraska et al, 2015).
Trigger point massage has been shown to have significant benefits on the body when performed by a skilled and trained licensed massage therapist.