Everyone may get trigger points but some people get more of them or experience more pain from them.
So, what exactly is a trigger point? I am including two definitions below that I think define a trigger point well.
Physiopedia defines a trigger point as, “A hyperirritable spot, a palpable nodule in the taut bands of the skeletal muscles’ fascia. Direct compression or muscle contraction can elicit jump sign, local tenderness, local twitch response and referred pain which usually responds with a pain pattern distant from the spot.” (A jump sign is the behavioral response to pressure on a trigger point.)
Oxford Languages defines a trigger point as, “a sensitive area of the body, stimulation or irritation of which causes a specific effect in another part, especially a tender area in a muscle that causes generalized musculoskeletal pain when overstimulated.”
Types of trigger points
In researching trigger point information for this blog, there are 2 types of trigger points that experts do agree on.
- Active trigger point: This type of trigger point refers to pain to another part of the body. For example, if during your massage, I press on an active trigger point in your shoulder, you may feel pain in your shoulder along with symptoms in your chest or arm.
- Passive trigger point: This type of trigger point hurts at their exact location. For example, if during your massage, I press on a trigger point in your calf, the pain will be felt exactly where the pressure is on the point.
Depending on where you get your information, some say there is a third trigger point.
- Satellite trigger point: This type of trigger point, also called secondary trigger point, may occur as a response to a central trigger point that lies within the *referred pain zone. The satellite or secondary trigger point often is resolved once the central trigger point has released.
*An example of a referred pain zone: if during massage, you had a trigger point in your shoulder and that trigger point was referring to the elbow, the elbow points would be the satellite trigger points.
Where can you get trigger points?
Trigger points can occur anywhere there is muscle tissue. An area of muscle tension can equal a trigger point. Areas that a person commonly finds trigger points include:
- Trapezius (upper, mid and lower)
- Quadratus Lumborum (located in the low back)
- Gastrocnemius & Soleus (calf muscles)
- Extensor & Flexor muscles of forearms
What causes trigger points?
There are several thoughts on the cause of trigger points and but scientific evidence is lacking. Some thoughts of trigger point causes may include:
- acute or repetitive microtrauma
- lack of exercise
- prolonged poor posture
- sleep disturbances
- *occupational or recreational repetitive stress on muscle groups
Examples of occupational activities that can cause repetitive stress include the office worker, using the mouse with just the right (or left) hand, not taking breaks from computer work, and sitting incorrectly in an office chair.
Examples of recreational activities that can cause repetitive stress include acute sports injuries caused by acute sprain or repetitive stress (golf or tennis elbow).
Do trigger points go away?
The answer is yes. This is where massage therapy comes in and is a great tool to get rid of trigger points.
Massage therapy releases the muscle knot to decrease the pain using various levels of pressure to the area. While a trigger point massage might not be the most relaxing massage, it is very effective. Massage for trigger points uses a combination of light and deep pressure.
Massage therapy is so helpful for those clients that experience chronic pain from trigger points. It is even a great option for those who have Fibromyalgia.
What can you expect after your trigger point massage therapy appointment?
You might feel sleepy or *sore after your massage; this is a good sign. Sleepiness is a sign that you’re relaxed, and the soreness will fade. You should feel more flexible and energetic in the days following your massage.
Is it normal to feel sore after your massage?
Yes, it is possible. Some *muscle soreness after a massage is normal. You may feel sore the day of and even the day after a massage.
What can help decrease muscle soreness?
- Epsom salt bath- I am a huge fan of epsom salts. I will do a separate blog on the benefits of epsome salts.
- Drinking water BEFORE and AFTER your massage. While there is no scientific evidence that drinking water after a massage flushes toxins, kneading and working your muscles gets your fluids pumping out of your muscles and into your circulatory system. From there it heads to your kidneys, which is why many people need to urinate right after a massage. Due to this dehydrating process, you need to replenish the lost water by drinking more.
- Warm/hot shower
Tools that I recommend
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Products recommended below have been tried by me.
I have tested products specifically for trigger points and have a few that I recommend.
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