Aches and pains are commonplace. Are aches and pains a natural part of the life, or are we supposed to be aches and pains free?
One thing is for sure trigger points appear to help, and can work quite dramatically. So read on in part one, for an introduction to trigger points and in part two learn about the top three trigger points for everyday life!
Trigger points are points in the body which release pain.
Where did the pain come from in the first place?
Physical pain can have a number of causes. On a physical level, it is the fascia which causes a problem. In common parlance, we tend to think of fascia as the dashboard in our car or the nice decorative exterior of our computers, however, fascia is also found in our bodies. Fascia’s are layers of connective tissue, which connect the various muscles of the body. Fascia provides a very important role of holding the muscles, tendons, ligaments and tissues in place. However, Fascia is also the conductor of unbalanced energy (pain), in the skeletal part of the body. Whenever we have an orthopaedic ache or pain, fascia is carrying this pain on some level.
Fascia, by its nature contains many nerve endings and requires efficient blood flow, in order to operate adequately. Many physical imbalances will throw out this blood flow, resulting in tightness, aches and pains. Postural, mechanical and emotional stresses have the effect of destabilizing the fascia. Other conditions include excessive heat, cold, allergic inflammatory reactions, and arthritic joint problems.
A major issue, with trigger points, is that the pain always originates from another part of the body. Forget about chasing the pain, rather seek the cause of the pain. Focus on the trigger points, which will release a considerable back log of stagnant energy (pain), in various parts of the body.
Pain is only one of the symptoms, caused by trigger points; restricted blood flow to various parts of the body is another side effect, which in turn can result in hormonal and nervous related imbalances.
Also, when pain kicks in there is a tendency to avoid pain, to try and work around the symptoms. However, as a result of these physical imbalances, the pain often shifts from one body part to another. It’s almost like a phantom pain, this week a pain in the shoulder, next week a pain in the lower back, the following week a pain in the side. All are interrelated, and as we try to avoid the pain symptoms, the pain simply moves around the body and nothing is resolved!
A Guide to Self Treatment
Trigger points are generally used by professional therapists, however, they can also be used by individuals in order to release tension in the trigger points.
While there are obvious restrictions, regarding what we can self-release (after all a trained professional, applying force from a strategic angle, is going to have more success at getting into hard to reach areas), a lot of physical tensions.
The thing to bear in mind, however, is that trigger points will not release, if we use a namby pamby approach. If you have ever been to a physical therapist, then you will remember the pain, yes pain is the appropriate word here. The degree of relief felt is largely proportional to three factors:
- Willingness of the patient to undergo discomfort (even pain)
- Knowledge of the practitioner
- Frequency of the treatment
So, the approach, which we need to take, is one whereby we are willing to push enough to provide a release (but not necessary a mind blowing hour and a half long, sweating, agonising one, but equally importantly we should carry out daily sessions. Maybe not daily sessions, of the one body part, maybe split the body parts over several sessions, but the idea is to do ten to twenty minutes a day regularly. When we take this approach, little by little, we get the relief which we need, as the physical imbalances slowly right themselves.
Another factor, which must also be remembered, is that physical massage is not enough. These physical imbalances usually arose out of lifestyle imbalances, over a long period of time, and lifestyle changes also need to be made. For example, say you have a soleus problem with your calf, and have all sorts of aches and pains; sure the trigger points will aid relief, but maybe you have to change your shoes, get corrective sole supports for your fallen arches and change some aspects of your walking gait, maybe you will even have to change how you sit and do some other exercises, such as Pilates or yoga, for example, and maybe some core exercises, so as to rebalance your posture, only then will a complete healing take place.
So we have to think in terms of ten to twenty minutes a day, over a period of months practising these SMR strategies, while also working on our various imbalances and lifestyle changes. This might sound extreme, as we are living in the age of “take a pill and forget about it”, but seriously if you want to get permanent relief from orthopedic stiffness and pain, the approach to take is one of working through imbalances, over time. Take this approach and great results will take place!
Finally, looking at release again, we have to be willing to grab and squeeze the muscle and fascia.
We can use our forefinger, thumb, forefinger and thumb or hand grab.
Forefinger: We can use our forefinger to poke around. This is great from a diagnostic point of view, as the easiest way to find a trigger point is to poke around until pain is felt, but it’s usually lacking the necessary power to bring about release.
Thumb: Our thumbs are really strong, so obviously they are good at prodding into hard to reach places, and gaining relief.
Forefinger and Thumb: This is a great combination, whereby we can grasp the area and apply pressure to the trigger point, for fast effective relief.
Knuckles: Knuckles are a really great way of getting a deep, sharp, localised effect in to a specific area.
Picture courtesy of wikihow
Hand Grab: This can be a useful technique, whereby we can gain even more leverage. A really good example of hand grab can be applied on our upper traps, whereby we aim for the midmost point and grab the trap as if where about to lift up a six pack, but instead we grab, hold and squeeze.
Picture courtesy of wikihow
Foam Roller: The foam roller is probably the most famous SMR tool, and simply it is a roller with foam on it!
How do we use it effectively?
Simply find the trigger point and roll back and forth over it until release comes. This is ideal for big areas, such as legs, lower back, upper back, hip area etc. The key is to keep rolling and working towards getting a tighter squeeze in this area. Once you get into it, a noticeable feeling of ache and pressure will build up and simply follow the ache as it slowly releases. Work at it for ten to fifteen minutes, from a variety of angles and then let it go until tomorrow, remember Rome was not built in a day!
Massage ball: The massage ball (it doesn’t have to be a massage ball, as any type of hard ball, rubber ball etc., will do the job), is ideal for those hard to reach places, such as shoulders, chest, and very specific parts of the back, Think of the foam roller as something large and dull in operation, whereas the ball is small and sharp, so it’s a better tool for getting into hard to reach places, where the pain is more localized. In many ways its operation is similar to knuckle massage, but obviously it allows us to access parts of our own body, which we could not access via our knuckles.
Ok so we now know a little bit about trigger point therapy and how we can carry out trigger point therapy on ourselves. In part two we shall pick out the top three trigger points which you can work on, in the comfort of your own home!