What is a trigger point?
A myofascial trigger point is an excessively irritable area in a muscle that is can be felt as a "knot". It causes a muscle to be in a continuously contracted state in which it is unable to relax. As a result, there is a build up of chemicals that make your nerves sensitive to touch and may cause a diffuse, achy pain. When pressure is applied to a myofascial trigger point, pain may be referred to other areas, and thus myofascial pain may be confused with nerve pain, which can also cause
referred pain. Proper diagnosis is key to successful treatment. In most cases, a thorough clinical exam by a skilled physical therapist can distinguish between myofascial pain and nerve pain.
What is manual trigger point therapy?
Manual trigger point therapy (also called trigger point compression) involves applying a gentle pressure over a trigger point using the fingers. Research shows that application of pressure in this manner for upto 90 seconds causes a decrease in nerve sensitivity and the ability to tolerate more pressure. A key point of manual trigger point therapy that it should not be incredibly painful. Muscles contract or tighten as a "fight or flight" response to pain. Therefore, if the technique causes a lot of pain, it will be ineffective at best, and possibly even worsen the pain. Therefore, it takes a considerable amount of training to learn how to judge the appropriate amount of pressure to be effective, but not so much that it causes an increase in pain. Our fellowship-trained manual physical therapist has years of experience successfully using this technique to decrease pain.
Is trigger point therapy the same as massage?
Some massage therapists may use trigger point compression as part of their treatment in addition to other massage therapy techniques. What is most important though is that the results from manual trigger point therapy are not permanent, so what you do after your treatment will determine how long the relief lasts. At More 4 Life Physical Therapy, we use manual trigger point therapy as one part of a complete treatment package. We make sure to determine what factors contributed to developing the trigger point in the first place AND teach you what you can do to help lower the chance of recurrence. Some of these factors may include posture, movement patterns, and stress.
What are other treatment options for trigger points
Other physical therapy treatment options include instrument assisted soft tissue mobilization (IASTM), dry needling, and positional release. More 4 Life Physical Therapy can provide all of these treatments as well as assist you in deciding which treatment options may be best for you. Trigger point injections can also be helpful, although they may be more costly. We can refer you to a physician experienced in giving trigger point injections if your symptoms do not respond to other treatments.