What Are They?
And How Do You Treat Them?
Mark Wahlen, Exercise Specialist
17 October 2019
What are “trigger points”?
Do you ever get painful “knots” in your muscles?
It’s likely that you’ve experienced these troublesome “knots” (also sometimes referred to as “trigger points”) at some point in your life. They’re one of the most common physical ailments people experience regardless of age, fitness level or lifestyle. And they can develop almost anywhere on the body.
But what exactly are these “knots”?
The medical terminology for a muscle knot is: myofascial trigger point (MTP for short). MTP’s occur when the fibers of muscles or internal connective tissue (called fascia) tense, tighten and are unable to relax. When this occurs, it results in a painful bump-like grouping of the muscular and connective tissues. MTP’s are often painful to the touch (latent trigger points). But they can also cause constant pain (active trigger points). But for simplicities sake, we’ll refer to all types of MTP’s as trigger points.
Example of a muscle knot or “trigger point” of the upper trapezius muscle
What causes trigger points?
Excessive stress of the muscles or connective tissues of the body is the underlying cause of trigger points. But this can happen in a variety of ways. The most common mechanisms include: poor posture, compensated movement patterns, overstimulation of the muscles (through physical activity or otherwise) and/or traumatic injury.
What are the most common area’s of the body where trigger points occur?
Some of the most common area’s of the body where trigger points occur includes: the shoulders (particularly along the upper trapezius muscle, rotator cuff muscles and the muscles between the shoulder blades – such as the rhomboids). The glutes (particularly for those who experience sciatica/piriformis syndrome type symptoms). The pectoral muscles of the chest. The flexor muscles of the forearm (the muscles that help you to grip objects with your hands). And the muscles along the sides of the spine (specifically, the group of muscles that run along both sides of the spine that are referred to as the paraspinal muscles).
“Excessive stress of the muscles or connective tissues of the body is the underlying cause of trigger points”
How can you treat and manage trigger points?
One of the easiest (and cheapest) ways of treating and managing trigger points is by using a trigger point ball. Trigger point balls come in a variety of colors, but they’re typically all the same size and made of similar materials (usually synthetic rubber). Think of a lacrosse ball or racquetball – that’s essentially a trigger point ball.
They’re also fairly cheap, usually ranging in price between $10 and $20. You can browse Amazon.com’s extensive trigger point ball inventory here, or you can come visit us at The Anatomy of Wellness and purchase one for only $7.00!
Example of a Trigger Point Ball
How do you use a trigger point ball?
It’s SUPER easy! The basic idea is that you are using the trigger point ball to massage the area of the body where the trigger point is occurring. The mechanical pressure of the ball pressing into the affected tissue/muscle will help the body to relax the trigger point. It’s this simple: get yourself a trigger point ball and simply place the ball where you’re experiencing the trigger point. Then, lean on the ball (use your own body weight to apply as much or as little pressure as you’d like) and slowly move your body around so the ball can massage the affected area. You can use a trigger point ball while sitting in a chair, standing up against a wall or while lying down. The technique you’ll want to use depends on the area of the body you’re trying to target and how much pressure you’d like to apply.
Check out the video below to see some examples of how this works!
What else can you do?
As mentioned earlier, trigger points are often caused by several different factors and mechanisms (such as poor posture, compensated movement patterns, stress, injuries, etc.) Because of this, people who suffer from trigger points often need additional work to help them treat and manage their trigger points beyond simply using a trigger point ball at home. The best way to do this is through a comprehensive approach that can identify and correct all of the factors and mechanisms that may be contributing to the trigger points. This can be accomplished by using a variety of assessments, screenings and therapeutic treatment techniques. Luckily, this is what we specialize in doing at The Anatomy of Wellness! We take a holistic and clinical based approach to identifying and treating the root causes of problems.
Interested in learning more?
Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel and follow us on Instagram to learn more about how we can help you and your body get out of pain, stay out of pain and perform better. Also, be sure to take a look around our website to learn more about who we are and what we do (which includes: clinical and sports massage therapy, stretch therapy, corrective exercises, kinesio taping and more!)