Category Archives for "Treat Your Triggers"

Trigger Points, Tendons, Muscles and Joints

Understanding how bones, muscles, and tendons connect is the foundation of trigger point treatment. It’s also the key to successfully treating trigger points.

Watch the video below to learn more.

We’re going to look at the basis of how the musculoskeletal system works. Once you understand this, a lot of other things will become clear about trigger points and how they work.

The basic structure you have bones, tendons, and muscles. You have muscles turning into tendons, joining into bone. Each of these structures is very different from the other.

Bones are hard and rigid. Joining into them is the tendon, a smooth, glistening white structure made of collagen. You could imagine it like a tightly wound rope.

The tendon then joins into the muscle. Muscles are the powerhouse of the area. Muscles contract with force to move your bones. They transmit force to the bones via tendons.

As the muscle shortens, it creates a lot of tension where the tendon joins into the bone. When too much force is transmitted by the muscles, a tear can occur in any weak areas where the muscle joins into the tendon, or where the tendon joins into the bone.

When a muscle tears, you’ll have swelling, which is part of the healing process. Muscles have a great blood supply and tend to heal quickly.

When tendons tear, they heal much slower because they don’t have a good blood supply.

You can have a problem in the tendon itself. You can have a problem at the musculotendinous junction, and finally, you can have problems in the muscle itself. The main type of problem that occurs in the muscles under stress is trigger points.

Trigger points are only be found in the muscle tissue itself, though this can be very close to the musculotendinous junction. Trigger points can also refer pain into joints (so you feel the pain in a different area from the muscle which has the trigger point.)

Trigger Points or Tendonitis? 

Tendons relatively poor blood supply which makes them vulnerable to injury and slow to heal. This can result in the only warning mechanism your body has: pain.

Pain coming from your tendons is very common.

Some of the household names for this condition include tennis elbow, weeder’s thumb, golfer’s elbow, runner’s knee, and of course Achilles’ heel.

Literally, tendonitis means inflammation of a tendon. This is actually an incorrect term because most studies show there is little or no inflammation in damaged tendons.

What has been found is degeneration in the tendon and this is called tendinosis. And this is where trigger points come into the equation. A tendon can be damaged by many things, but one of them is tight muscles.

Trigger points cause muscles to have these tight bands that don’t stretch properly. And these tight bands of muscle can cause or prolong tendonitis.

Quite often the pain of triggers refers down to where the tendon is. This means that you may be wrongly diagnosed with tendonitis, when in fact you have trigger points. On the other hand, you may have a damaged tendon, but trigger points are contributing to the pain in the area.

Often pain = tension, which results in more myofascial triggers. The two conditions can contribute to each other, so treating them both together makes sense. You can certainly treat triggers proactively, but often damaged tendons simply need rest.

So when you have a diagnosis of tendonitis, check out whether there are trigger points in the muscles attached to the tendons. Treating these may help the tendon pain.

If you want to get hold of free trigger point charts and resources to find and treat all your trigger points, here’s where to go:

How to Find a Trigger Point

Finding a trigger point is a vital skill in itself. It requires sensitivity and attention, but most importantly you need to know what you’re looking for. This video gives you techniques for how to find trigger points.

If you have pain somewhere in a muscle, how do you know the pain is coming from a trigger point?

To answer this, you need to examine the area with your fingers. You can’t answer this question in any other way. You have to answer it through the tips of your fingers.

When you search for a trigger point, what you’re looking for is a tender point in the muscle.

If the trigger point is very active, you’ll feel a tight band within the muscle, almost like a guitar string. When you press on it, you may feel it jump under your fingers.

Usually the trigger point will be located somewhere within this band. When you press really firmly on the exact place where the trigger point is, you’ll feel tenderness there. And then, depending on the referral pattern for that point, you’ll also feel pain somewhere else.

These pain referral pathways are specific to each trigger point. Sometimes it can be hard to find the point that’s causing your specific pain, because it’s located far away from where you’re feeling the pain.

For example, trigger points in the shoulder can cause pain in the arm, trigger points in the neck can cause pain in the head. Points in the thigh can refer pain down into the knee, and triggers in the calf can refer pain down into the feet.

The referral patterns of each trigger have been mapped out and you can find all the major trigger point charts for free here.

Free Trigger Point Charts

Myofascial Stretching

This is a fascinating technique: myofascial stretching. To be done properly you need a fair amount of sensitivity and attention. Once you have the correct sensation for releasing triggers, this can be a very effective way to release trigger points and relax muscles.

Myofascial stretching is a subtle and effective technique. You treat yourself with this technique only in areas where you can reach with both hands.

As with all the ischemic pressure technique, you need to have focused attention. This technique works best when you do it with awareness combined with a visualisation of what it is you’re trying to achieve.

The principle of a myofascial stretch is that you are releasing the fascia over a muscle where there is a trigger point.

Myofascial Stretching with Visualisation

As you start the technique, imagine that your fingers are going in through the skin, down through the subcutaneous tissue, into the muscle, absolutely down to that trigger point. Once they’ve reached the trigger point, use your two knuckles against each other as the fulcrum, and slowly lever your fingers apart.

If you do this correctly, you’ll feel stretching movement between my fingers. Sometimes you’ll get a sensation like pins and needles. This is most likely the fascia releasing.

As you gently stretching the tissues, remain aware of the tension between your fingers. It may be that some resistance occurs at a particular point. If this happens, don’t try and force through the resistance. Just move your fingers to continue stretching at a slightly different angle. You’re looking for the angle where you can continue stretching effortlessly.

Gradually, you’ll feel your muscles will give, and you’ll continue stretching. By the time you’ve finished, the trigger point will be released, and the whole area will feel much more relaxed.

This is a very effective treatment and it’s usually either painless or you may get a slight prickling sensation.

When you do a myofascial stretch, the more conscious you are, the more effective you will be. This should take anything from 20 to 30 seconds and by the end of it, your fingers will have moved about 1-1.5 inches away from each other.

Find Out What Causes Trigger Points

This video explains what causes trigger points to occur. You’ll learn:

  • Why a small malfunction in your body’s natural reflexes can cause triggers
  • What a trigger point looks like – under a microscope
  • How triggers act like the trigger of a gun

NB – video contains images from Janet Travell.

Trigger points are really common cause of pain in people. Most people will have trigger point pain at some stage in their life and some will suffer long term with this pain. It can be quite severe and incapacitating if left untreated.

The basis of trigger point pain is a reflex arc. In a normal muscle cell is a muscle spindle fiber. There are millions of them that are scattered throughout the body. It’s a nerve created in a spiral all the way down as the spindle strictures. It will send a message along the sensory nerve to the spinal cord and back to the muscle.

This is a really simple reflex arc and there are millions of these scattered throughout your body. They are used for all the amazingly complex things that you do like sitting, standing, walking – movements which happen automatically in your body.

The problem is that when this little arc starts malfunctioning, it sets up a trigger point. When the spindle starts misfiring the muscle gets a small area of spasm. This small area of spasm is a trigger point complex, which pulls a tight band within the muscle.

The trigger point acts like the trigger of a gun. When you pull the trigger of a gun, something happens in the distance. A similar thing happens when a trigger point sets off a pain referral pattern specific to each trigger point.

There are trigger points all over your body which may cause pain in your face, in your head, in your neck, in your back, in your abdomen, in your chest, buttock, and down your legs. Anywhere you have muscles, you may have pain arising from trigger points.

In summary, trigger points are a cause of chronic muscle pain that affects almost everybody at some stage of their life. They can be treated using ischemic pressure and myofascial release.

Why Trigger Points Come Back

This is a question I’ve been asked several times, and is something that has plagued many people who suffer from trigger points.
Why do trigger points return?

In the interview below you’ll learn the two types of trigger point pain, 5 ways to stop triggers coming back, and how this will improve your life across the board.


Trigger Point Pain and Sciatica

A question I’ve been asked several times is whether trigger points have a connection with sciatica.

The answer is that their can be a strong connection, the two types of pain can feel quite similar, and treating both can work in together. In the video below I explain in more detail how this works.

For more information on sciatica, check out the links to the videos below.

Why a Prolapsed Disc Occurs, and How It Causes Sciatica

Herniated Disc Treatment: Which Options Make Sense

Herniated or Prolapsed Discs: Natural Recovery