Understanding Trigger Point Release
You’ve probably heard of a trigger point of trigger point release at some point. But, if not, or if you’d like to learn more about it, continue reading. Have you ever experienced achy muscles, tingling, or tight areas that don’t respond to movement? The majority of us will answer, “Yes!”, because these are common effects of living in the gravitational world. No matter how hard we try we are bound to acquire trigger points. “Posture, work conditions, sedentary habits, and injury can cause muscles to lose their memory of proper resting length in relation to other muscles resulting in shortened tissue and trigger points”(1).
What are trigger points? According to Dr.’s Travell and Simons, authors of Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: The Trigger Point Manual Volumes 1 & 2, a trigger point is a “hyper-irritable spot in the skeletal muscle that is associated with a hypersensitive palpable nodule in a taut band”(2). In our everyday language, it’s that spot that “hurts-so-good” when your massage therapist, or loved one, pushes on a knot.
Trigger points, TrP’s for short, exhibit certain characteristics that help us distinguish them from other soft tissue dysfunctions:
1. Trigger points feel like nodules or knots that are pea-like in size but are not lymph nodes.
2. TrP’s are hypersensitive and hyper-irritable to touch affecting the local region of soft tissue resulting in decreased circulation, muscular spasm, and increased pain.
3. TrP’s are found in taught bands of muscle tissue that often feel ropey, or if you’re lucky, feel like steel cables.
4. Trigger points cause symptoms locally and in regions distal to the point, meaning they often block circulation and produce pain distally.
How trigger point release works
Compressing the knot for 8-12 seconds is standard, but longer time frames can be used as long as pain and any referral sensations are decreasing. Experts agree that releasing more than 5 muscles with trigger points in one session could easily be too much, so planning out sessions to attack the whole body is advised.
The key point I like to make when it comes to minimizing the number of trigger points you have is to make sure you are regularly stretching. By maintaining a healthy natural resting muscle tone you are keeping your tissues hydrated, free from restriction and contracture, and avoiding most chemical imbalances.
If you’d like to learn more about trigger points, read our blog post here. Tyler uses TRP together with other massage therapy techniques for a well-rounded treatment session.