Q and A on Trigger Pointing

Trigger pointing is a soft tissue technique used in the clinic for most clients who suffer with headaches, constant dull aches and other obvious symptoms that sound very much like a trigger point. Most people like to know what you’re doing and what the science is behind the technique, so for all those interested, this is the nitty gritty information behind trigger points.

What is a muscle knot? There is no knot, however it is a word people often use because it feels as if there is one. A muscle knot is a small area of fibers that have gone into contraction, cutting off their own blood supply and affectively becoming unhealthy tissue. Note that this is not a whole muscle contraction, instead it is a small band, as not all fibers activate at the same time and are independent from one another. The tissue that has less blood supply therefore has higher levels of toxic waste, causing pain, discomfort and often referral pains throughout the myofascial chain.

Why do muscles have knots? There are a few known causes of knots (again I use the common term that is used in treatments) within the body and I often use bio-mechanical testing to get an overall assessment on the body from both a musculoskeletal and joint perspective, and I often find clients will come under these three categories.

Accidents: After any sort of trauma to the body whether that be sports related or everyday accidents, strains and stress can cause fibers to hyper-react and cause a band of contraction.

Over stimulation: Strenuous exercise and sport activities, especially lifting weights

Posture: Sitting too long with poor posture, sitting with no support and lifting improperly

What is a Trigger point? A trigger point is a myofascial knot as described above that when pressed causes a very acute pain (normally an 8 or 9 out of 10) that can also refer to other areas or create localized muscle twitching. Once a knot has formed within the body the area has little blood supply and higher levels of toxic waste thus causing a dull ache. This dull ache is not accepted by the body and therefor triggers an electrophysiological response as the brain then tells this particular band of fibers to rest, therefore becoming in-active.

What is the difference between active and latent trigger points? Latent trigger points only cause referral pain when compressed however an active trigger point is knots that actively refer pain along your neural pathways, causing it in non-localized areas.

Where can a Trigger point be found? A trigger point is not only found within the belly of the muscle but can also be found close to ligaments and tendons towards the joint.

Are Trigger points scientifically proven? Trigger points are widely used among Osteopaths, chiropractors and sports therapists however they are the center of hot debate as to the scientific evidence to support the existence of trigger point therapy. For every article there is to prove the treatment and theory there is always a devil’s advocate to melt away any solid evidence, however this does tend to be a trend in the health and fitness industry across the board. A good health care professional will learn all the evidence to prove and disprove and keep what works for them and their clients.

This article below is one I read that highlights the controversy. http://www.csp.org.uk/frontline/article/hot-topic-trigger-points-myth-or-magic

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