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- Your body's instinctive reaction to a harmful event is to protect itself.
- Trigger points are a type of muscle stiffness, usually in the lower back.
- To relieve the pain, a deep-tissue massage is recommended.
Research by Drs. Janet Travell and David Simons, authors of "The Trigger Point Manual," has shown that trigger points are the primary cause of pain at least 75 percent of the time and are a factor in nearly every painful condition.
Trigger points, a type of muscle stiffness, are the result of tiny contraction knots that develop in muscle and tissue when an area of the body is injured or overworked. Trigger points are something traditional doctors ignore, but they could be the one thing that has been overlooked in your case for years, if not decades.
A hallmark of trigger points is something called "referred" pain. This means that trigger points typically send their pain to some other place in the body, which is why conventional treatments for pain so often fail. Many health care practitioners wrongly assume that the problem is located where the pain is and therefore fail to assess the body correctly to find the cause of your pain.
Trigger Points Are Tiny Contraction Knots That Develop In Muscle And Tissue When An Area Of The Body Is Injured.
I'm going to give you some valuable information about trigger points that I hope will encourage you to consider the possibility that trigger points may be the missing link in your quest for relief.
What Triggers A Trigger Point?
Trigger points can occur as a result of muscle trauma (from car accidents, falls, sports, and work-related injuries, etc.), muscle strain from repetitive movements at work or play, postural strain from standing or sitting improperly for long periods at the computer, emotional stress, anxiety, allergies, nutritional deficiencies, inflammation, and toxins in the environment.
A single event can initiate a trigger point, and you can suffer the effects for the rest of your life if that trigger point is not addressed properly.
Your body's instinctive reaction to a harmful "event" is to protect itself. It does that by altering the way you move, sit, or stand, which puts abnormal stress on your muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints. This produces strength and flexibility imbalances in your muscles, as well as postural dysfunctions throughout your body.
If that were not bad enough, your blood flow can become restricted and when that happens both your peripheral and central nervous systems will start to send out those "referred" pain signals, making assessment and treatment even trickier. That's why some experts believe that trigger points are the beginning stage of fibromyalgia. Can things get even worse? Keep reading.
Here's Why You May Be Suffering
To better illustrate the process, here's an example of how one trigger point in one muscle can cause back pain, sciatica, or a herniated disc. The most common place for a trigger point is in the muscle of the lower back called the quadratus lumborum (QL), which is located just above your hips.
Regardless of what kind of event sparks the trigger point, your QL will gradually become dysfunctional - that is, the QL will tighten and shorten. And as you limit its use, it will weaken.
The Most Common Place For A Trigger Point Is In The Muscle Of The Lower Back Called The Quadratus Lumborum. As the QL becomes increasingly dysfunctional, it will alter the position of the pelvis. As the pelvis becomes dysfunctional, it will force the spine into an abnormal curvature that will put abnormal pressure on the disc. Over time, the disc will begin to bulge. This situation will get progressively worse, affecting your overall quality of life. Depression often follows. All of this from a single event that occurred in one moment in time.
How Do You Know If You Have Trigger Points?
Everyone has trigger points; the question is degree. If you have lingering pain, tightness, or restriction of certain movements, it is a good bet that you are experiencing the effects of a trigger point. Trigger points may produce symptoms as diverse as dizziness, earaches, sinusitis, nausea, heartburn, false heart pain, heart arrhythmia, genital pain, and numbness in the hands and feet.
Trigger points can bring on headaches, neck and jaw pain, low back pain, sciatica, tennis elbow, and carpal tunnel syndrome - you name it. They are the source of joint pain in the shoulder, wrist, hip, knee, and ankle that is often mistaken for arthritis, tendonitis, bursitis, or ligament injury.
If you think this is overkill, I suggest you read the book "Why We Hurt: A Complete Physical & Spiritual Guide to Healing Your Chronic Pain," by Dr. Greg Fors, in which he explains precisely why so many different conditions are rooted in trigger points.
Here are a few more symptoms you should know about:
- If you have restless leg syndrome, you have TPs
- If your teeth hurt, you have TPs
- If your workouts have plateaued, you have TPs
- If you have painful menses or irritable bowel syndrome, you have TPs.
How Does Trigger Point Therapy Work?
Simply rubbing the surface of the skin with a massage lotion, a vibrating massager - or using heat - will not change the tissue of a single trigger point. What it needs is sufficient deep sustained pressure to the "knotted-up area." As you work the Trigger Point, your body will undergo soft tissue release, allowing for increased blood flow, a reduction in muscle spasm, and the break-up of scar tissue. It will also help remove any build-up of toxic metabolic waste.
How Long Does it Take to Get Relief
The length of time it takes to release a trigger point depends on several factors, one of which is how long you have had your trigger point. Other factors include the number of trigger points you have, how effective your current treatment is, and how consistently you can administer or receive treatment.
Even if you are lucky enough to find a clinician who can properly assess your condition - let alone treat trigger points - it can be time-consuming and costly to pay someone to completely release all the primary, latent, and myofascial trigger points you may have in your body. You can try going to a massage therapist, but trigger points are very fickle; they need to be addressed daily using a technique that will apply the pinpoint pressure that is needed. Most likely it will be impractical to see a massage therapist frequently enough to get a trigger point to release. The basic idea is simple. First of all, a trigger point is only about the size of a mustard seed, which is one of the tiniest of all seeds. The idea is to put sustained pressure on the area for a set period of time on a regular basis. There are a number of techniques out there that you can employ to do this. The bottom line is that you need to take the initiative. "There is no substitute for learning to control your own musculoskeletal pain," says Dr. Simons. "Treating myofascial trigger points yourself addresses the source of that kind of common pain and is not just a way of temporarily relieving it."
An Approach That Makes Sense
Related Back Pain And Injuries Articles:
- Keep Back Pain From Taking Over Your Life! - By Christopher Mohr
- Back Pain: How Exercise Can Help! - By David Robson
- Get Rid Of My Nagging Back Pain! - By Jesse Cannone
- Other Back Pain And Injuries Articles...
In other words, you can fix your own trigger points better than anyone else - once and for all. Dr. Simons has it exactly right: You must educate yourself about your condition and then apply what you've learned. This runs counter to today's conventional wisdom, which says that whenever we have a health issue, we should find someone to take care of the problem for us.
WITHOUT Taking Pills
This article explains how to do some simple stretches that stop a developing tension headache dead in its tracks, and how to get rid of a tension headache (without drugs) in the work place. It's an excerpt from the author's "How to Get Permanent Relief From Chronic Tension Headaches" program.
Most people can head off an oncoming tension headache if they react quickly enough to the first warning signal.
And what is that? It's tightness in the neck - a sure sign that blood flow to the back of the head is being restricted due to tension, stress, or poor posture.
Many people in today's workplace are predisposed to having muscle tightness in the neck because of the positioning their jobs place them in.
This is especially true of people who hunch over a computer terminal all day. It's also true of those who work at factory jobs, or of executives and secretaries who slouch at their desks with a phone crooked between their neck and ear.
People who practice such poor posture invariably find their neck, shoulders and upper back tightening up.
Remaining in poor posture for extended periods puts a strain on already tense muscles. Fatigue sets in as blood flow decreases, resulting in knots and muscle spasms. This causes even tighter muscles and more severe symptoms, which cause tension headaches.
Unless changes in posture are taken, the headaches will occur more often and become progressively worse.
Fortunately, there are several simple steps that can be taken to help prevent this vicious circle:
1. Sit up straight and stand up straight. In other words, assume the military position: shoulders back, head up, chest out, stomach tight.
2. People who sit all day should get a chair with good back support.
3. Bring your work surface closer to you. For example, if your job involves stooping down to your work station, elevate it on a platform so you don't have to bend down so low.
4. Take several breaks during the day to perform a series of stretching and isometric exercises. These can be done sitting or standing.
a. With your hands behind your back, gently pull your shoulders back and maintain this position for one to three minutes.
b. Turn your head halfway to the right (or left). Then drop your head forward until you feel slight tension. Let the weight of your head gently stretch the neck muscles. Go slowly - no pain! Hold this position for up to two minutes, then turn to the opposite side and repeat.
So what should be done if you already have a tension headache?
1. Perform the previously mentioned stretching exercise in 4a.
2. Apply moist heat on the neck and shoulders, a towel soaked in very warm water, for example. If moist heat is impractical or isn't available, use dry heat.
3. Get someone to give your neck and shoulders a deep tissue massage.
These simple steps will help prevent tension headaches. If you suffer from chronic tension headaches, go to http://www.tensionheadaches.com for more information.
About the Author:
Paul Bacho is the author of "How to Get Permanent Relief From Chronic Tension Headaches."
For more information, go to http://www.tensionheadaches.com
You’re smart. You fulfill your obligations; you mind your own business and generally do the right thing in whatever enterprise engages you at the moment. You take care of yourself, exercise in moderation, eat right, and enjoy good health and a relatively high fitness level and all of the benefits that usually flow from your admirable lifestyle. Unfortunately freedom from back pain is not necessarily one of those benefits.You might be one of the lucky ones and escape this particular torment through yourlifetime. If you do, you will be in an elite minority. Congratulations, and lucky you.
For most of the rest of us, however, we would do well to have some kind of a game plan to call into play when it feels like we have been hit in the back with a jackhammer. Knowing what to do when that happens or feels like it is about to happen depends largely on the nature and level of your pain, its location and its root cause.
If you are relatively young, take heart; eventually you should become an expert on your symptoms and will learn to identify and avoid the factors that bring on a back pain episode and what works best to prevent and ease your own, special travail. In the meantime, here are some suggestions to try out the next time the hammer strikes.
Rest: For many habitual athletes, the word is anathema, but when your back is in unremitting spasm, you have little choice. At the same time you need not baby yourself too much or too long and should become as active and as soon as your pain level will allow. The days of long term bed rest for garden variety back pain are pretty much over since it was found that extended inactivity actually lengthens the recovery period.
●Ice: As for other muscle injuries, cold therapy can work wonders. You can use packaged chemical coolants, gels that stay mushy even when frozen or old fashioned ice packs. Avoid frostbite with a towel between your skin and the pack, but make sure you cool the tissues deep enough to reach the core of the spasm. In the early, acute stages, you can effectively ice up to three or more times a day. Remember to keep the rest of your body comfortably warm while you are icing, especially in colder weather..
●Drugs: You may get your physician to prescribe a muscle relaxant or a heavy duty pain-killer. Such pills can get you through the worst of it. You might also try Ibuprofen,
a generic, over-the-counter anti inflammatory and pain medication. Although with Ibuprofen, you may need to take it for several days or even a couple of weeks to sustain a therapeutic blood level to achieve the anti inflammatory effect, beware of the risks that accompany long term dependency. When in doubt, check with your physician.
●Massage: If you are fortunate enough to have access to a skilled, strong massage or other hands-on therapist who can and will apply deep muscle compression, go for it as soon and as often as you can. There are a variety of theories underlying the various techniques used to release trigger points, relax taut muscles, improve range of motion and mitigate muscle pain; you may find that with experience you will prefer one method over another. In the end it is the therapist who leaves you feeling more flexible, more relaxed, and in less pain who will likely give you the most satisfaction.
●Professional Care: If your pain leaves you unable to move, you may have no choice but to seek the care of a physician. Your family doctor may be your first stop unless you have access to a physician who specializes in physical medicine, pain management, sports injury rehabilitation, chiropractic, orthopedic, physical or occupational therapy.
There are excellent practitioners in all of these specialties and more. Selecting the professional who offers the best match for you requires that you do your homework,most effectively before you are in a painful crisis.
●Exercise: Once you are out of the woods, and can move around without going into spasm, you can start some benign strengthening and stretching exercises. Abdominal curls done flat on your back with knees bent can be started early on and will produce the best payoff. You can take exercise and stretching classes at you local gym or refer to self care information at the http://www.pressurepositive.com/ website described below.
●Self Care: As important as outside sources of help can be to relieve your aching back, do explore all the possibilities available to you to help yourself. In addition to appropriate medical care, rest, ice, stretching, exercise, and other lifestyle choices, there are tools that can help you manage your back pain issues by allowing you to apply deep, static, soft tissue compression that will quell muscle spasms and chronic pain, easing tension in the involved muscles sufficiently enough to allow deliberate, targeted stretching. Over time such a regular regimen, as a component in a balanced self care program, will not only help you heal but will be effective in preventing future recurrences. In the interests of full disclosure, my own enterprise, The Pressure Positive Company specializes in the design and manufacture of such self care products that are displayed along with a wealth of detailed information on self care at our corporate website at: http://www.pressurepositive.com/ .
●Learn: In the end the more you know about yourself, what works and what doesn’t, how to recognize the warning signs when something is about to go wrong and what you need to do to stay upright and well over time is your best, most dependable defense.