The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook
Perhaps the term,"trigger point" is one that's familiar to many people by now.
Very simply defined, it refers to a specific place within a muscle, in which a tiny section of muscle fibers becomes chronically contracted.
But don't underestimate the degree of of discomfort that can be caused by such a small contraction. As defined by the pioneers of trigger point therapy research, Janet G. Travell, MD and David G. Simons, MD, a trigger point is "a highly irritable localized spot of exquisite tenderness in a nodule in a palpable taut band of muscle tissue."
In other words, it's a very specific location in a tight muscle which, when pressed upon, will probably make you curse. 'Exquisite', indeed.
One of the more interesting characteristics of trigger points, however, is that they almost always create a referred pain pattern.... meaning that an ache or pain, or tension, stiffness, weakness, nausea, etc., can appear in a different location than where the trigger point occurs.
Cluster headaches and migraines, vision problems, teeth grinding and TMJ, carpal tunnel syndrome, pain, numbness and tingling in the limbs, hands and feet, sciatica, chest, back and abdominal pain.. these and more could all be possibly traced to active trigger points.
Author and massage therapist, Clair Davies, in an attempt to understand and self-treat his own chronic pain issues found tremendous success in studying the work of Travell and Simons, and applying their knowledge to his own body, and eventually that of his clients.
Davies states in his book, The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook, 2nd Edition, that non-specific therapeutic methods (such as shiatsu) will not address trigger points, though he does offer the idea that there are many overlaps of the classic meridians and the common hang-out spots for trigger points. (And it is true, that a referred pain pattern often follows the path of a meridian... hmmmm...)
Trigger points are not necessarily the cause of every muscular pain issue, but it is intriguing to discover some points that get your attention once you know where to look, and how many niggly issues can be resolved by working on them.
The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook is written specifically for the individual to work on their own bodies. It is full of illustrations of referred pain patterns and simple anatomical descriptions, along with suggestions for techniques and tools for harder-to-reach places. Sure, a book like this could put a cramp in my business, but I recommend it anyway, and I have often given clients a few tips from it, with the understanding that people can tolerate far more pain when it is self-inflicted. I say that because sometimes the trick to releasing these little buggers is getting in there and applying enough pressure to bring tears to your eyes.
But, oh, it sure feels good once ya stop!
Want to try it out?
Here's a common trigger point area, the sternocleidomastoid muscle (or SCM)... contractions here can lead to all kinds of issues: headaches, jaw pain, dizziness, visual disturbances, balance problems and more.
Following the illustration, turn your head to one side, and take hold of the SCM (it'll stick out) on the other side. The SCM actually has two parts that converge like an upside-down "V" just behind the ear. The larger part in front that comes down to the collarbone is what you're after.
Working your way down from the ear, squeeze this muscle. If it hurts at any point, (and don't be afraid of any pain here, it is actually beneficial to really squeeze them) chances are trigger points may have been causing any of the aforementioned problems. And even if you don't experience any of these trigger-point related issues, after a minute or two massage, your neck will feel looser and more open.
One word of caution... the carotid arteries are located just alongside the SCM... accessible high up under the chin alongside the windpipe. Be sure not to massage anywhere you can feel a pulse.