Fix yourself at home

In Exercise by Katie Evans

Fix Yourself At Home: Trigger Point

Pain Special!

Do you ever just get that annoying, nagging pain in a certain part of your body that you just have to press and try and get rid of? You might be sitting with your partner and ask them to press into your neck or you might grab a ball and roll it into your buttock. It’s that nice pain we seek that then gives us much needed relief afterwards.

If you’ve done this – then you’re probably doing the right thing. To give you some more information and guidance on this subject should help you to manage any aches and pains you may be getting during isolation and home working.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, staying home and working have become commonplace – but with that comes a whole host of postural and positional issues. Trigger point development is one of the unfortunate products of this period  – so knowing WHAT they are and what YOU can do, can help to make this period a whole lot easier.

The neck, shoulders and hips are common places for these irritable points of pain to develop. Especially if we think about the increased sitting and desk-based work we may be performing. The neck and shoulders can become overstressed from hunched working over the kitchen table, and the buttocks may become tight from inadequate seating in your makeshift office.

Get the knowledge

First, let’s start with some brief education before getting into what you can do about it.

Trigger points are technically defined as:

“Discrete, focal, hyperirritable spots located in a taut band of skeletal muscle” (American Family Physician Journal – 2002)

There are different types of trigger point, which are key to knowing and understanding your pain. There are active trigger points and latent trigger points:

  1. Active – your point of pain will give you symptoms at rest, it will be sore to touch and it will also cause pain to be referred into another area which feels similar to the pain you experience at the sore trigger point.
  2. Latent – there is no pain present but will cause a muscle or joint to be restricted. Pain from these types of trigger points may only become noticeable when pressed upon.

Trigger points will typically be in the muscle belly – this means the centre of the muscle where the most muscles fibres are. Muscle fibres are bundled together like long strands and when tension develops they can sit tight and bundle together – therefore causing a trigger point to develop. It is important to mention that other areas of the body can become tender without being a trigger point – such as tendon insertions close to the bone, these are simply referred to as tender points.

The signs of having a trigger point will be symptoms of tightness in a muscle, pain to touch and also a twitch response which will look like a rippling motion when the trigger point is pressed upon.

So – we now know the basics of what a trigger point is, but where on your body are they commonly found? As we discussed in the introduction – there are high probability areas such as the neck, shoulders and pelvic region – take a look below to see where trigger points are and also where they can refer in to and what issues they cause:

  • Neck – either side of the spine in the soft tissue – when pressed upon they can refer pain down into the shoulders or up into the head – they can typically be a cause of headache
  • Trapezius / Upper Shoulders – pain in the region that sits between the neck and the point of the shoulder – a very commonplace for trigger points. These points can again refer pain into the neck and head but also down into the shoulder blade region.
  • Shoulder blades – the tissues around the scapula are muscle dense, especially with the lower parts of the trapezius and the rhomboids – pain can be referred upwards and downwards of these points.
  • Hips/Buttocks/Pelvis – Because of the high density of muscle mass in this region, there is huge potential for trigger point development. Pain can be referred into the lower back, into the groin and also down into the thigh depending on the location of the trigger point. Latent trigger points which restrict hip movement are also common here.

An extra point to note is that trigger points can occur in many places but these are some of the most common.

What Can I Do?

You will be glad to know that self-treatment can be performed!

Trigger point release is the most common way of treating these issues when you have correctly diagnosed and identified the areas which may be a problem. The technique is simple and can be performed as much as you feel it needs. Another point to consider is why you have been getting the trigger point in the first place – this is where you have to do some homework to think about the cause (postures, working positions, habits, injuries).

Heat placed upon a trigger point before treating the area can help to relax the area further. Use a hot water bottle or microwaveable wheat cushion to get a comfortable level of heat.

The technique is simple and comes in 3 easy steps:

  1. Find your trigger point and apply firm pressure to about 50% of your comfort level – hold for 10 seconds
  2. Maintain the 50% pressure and increase to 75% – hold for a further 10 seconds
  3. Maintain and increase pressure to more than 75% and whatever you can tolerate for a final 10 seconds.

The constant maintenance of pressure to the trigger point causes it to relax and loosen. You may need to repeat this measure repeatedly to get the desired effect. You can use your own hands, release tools such as hockey balls, tennis ball or any firm object which allows you to apply pressure. If you can’t reach the area you need to be treated someone else can perform this also.

What Do I Do If This Doesn’t Work?

Not all trigger points will respond to simple treatment – some are more stubborn than others. If this is the case then it may be that you need further diagnosis and/or help to get on top of your pain. At this point consider contacting the clinic to have a discussion or to book an appointment for expert assessment.

Conclusion

To summarise – trigger points are tight areas of the centre of a muscle, they cause pain to touch and also pain to other areas and sometimes restrict the movement of joints and muscles. Self-treatment is a great place to start but if you can’t self-treat then get in touch. We have deep experience in managing this problem and also a great success rate.

Please contact the clinic via the website or call to have a discussion.