Trigger points: small but mighty… painful!

What is a trigger point? We get asked that question a lot. Here’s my explanation as interpreted through my Neuromuscular Therapy training: A trigger point is a nodule in taut bands of muscle or tendon that elicits a pain or sensation when stimulated. They are palpable in these taut bands, similar in feel to a grain of rice or a small pea. The pain or sensation of a trigger point can be radiating out from where it is being pressed (stimulated), or it can refer to another part of the body, making you believe that you have pain somewhere other than where the root problem is! There are three types of myofascial trigger points: active, latent and satellite.

When trigger points are “active”, they cause pain in normal, functional movement. This is generally the stage when we see clients coming in for treatment – the pain is so bad that they feel it all the time, with or without movement. Active trigger points are created by postural stress (hunching over a desk), repetitive actions (lifting and twisting – shoveling snow!), or injury or trauma (motor vehicle accident). Active trigger points not only cause pain or sensations, but they also cause the muscle tissue to contract in response.

“Latent” trigger points are the sleeper trigger points  – those you are unaware of until your therapist presses on an area and you say “Wow, I had no idea that was sore there!” In my experience, these are usually the trigger points found in compensatory patterns related to your primary pain complaint. Our brain can only process so much pain at once (otherwise we would never get out of bed in the morning!) so you will generally feel only one or two areas of pain at a time.

“Satellite” trigger points are the myofascial version of Connect The Dot, or the domino effect. Satellites appear when the referral from a primary trigger point activates another trigger point in the referral zone. For example, you may come in with jaw pain or TMJ symptoms, and we find a trigger point in the trapezius that refers pain to the temple area of the head. The temporalis muscle in the temple area has a trigger point that is referring pain to the jaw. Because the temporalis trigger point is active within the referral zone of the primary trapezius trigger point, it is considered a satellite. And all you felt coming in was jaw pain!

And this myofascial problem solving is why you choose Neuromuscular Therapy over deep tissue massage, by a therapist who is experience and Certified!



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