Your sleep gets interrupted one night by what sounds like a massive storm outside. The following morning as you leave the house, you see evidence of the past storm on the ground, broken branches, leaves and stones lying on the road etc .
My job means that I have to press my thumbs into people’s muscles from time to time. The tone and feel of the muscle gives a lot away. I sometimes do this as part of a leg assessment, bike setup or myofascial release session. As you palpate the muscle you suddenly come across a bump in the muscle. It can be the size of a pea, marble or even feel like a section of a squash ball. These ‘bumps’ are known as trigger points. People are often unaware that they have them until the trigger point is pressed on. These always tell you that there has been a storm.
Let’s take the storm analogy a bit further. You are out camping and have put up a tent. The guy wires on each side keep your tent up and square. A storm comes up and the tent is pushed by the wind. The tent is now skew. You run outside and on the side of the tent facing the storm, you begin to tighten the guy wires. The tent is once again equal on all sides. The storm abates and now, without wind pressure on the one side, the tent is now unbalanced. The guy wires are too tight, and in order for you to rebalance the tent, you need to release some of the tension on the correct wires.
Your body works in much the same way. Here are some examples:
Think of the accountant sitting in front of a computer screen. As he leans forward, his posterior shoulder muscles go into a stretch. Held too long, the body starts to respond by trying to tighten the guy wires of the shoulders and neck. Most accountants, IT specialists, lawyers etc that I see, have serious trigger points through the shoulders and neck.
Think of the athlete who has a muscular imbalance. As she runs, her hip drops, leaving the muscles of the lower back to try and rectify the situation. Runners land approximately 90 times per minute on each leg. Imagine the opposite hip to the leg that has landed dropping 90 x per minute. Now, imagine the muscles along the spine trying to stabilize the situation. You have a recipe for lower back trigger points.
Think of the person who has experienced a traumatic life event. It could be a car accident; a bout of depression- physical, emotional or mental stressors. A car accident can put the neck into a whiplash situation that will produce trigger points. A bout of depression will alter the way you carry yourself. Depressed people don’t pull their shoulders and necks back. As they face an internal psychological storm, so too their bodies get re-sculpted. Now think of someone who was attacked. Years later they replay the event in their mind and because the mind and body are one, they find their muscles suddenly tense and can form trigger points as the memory is played out. The body often cannot tell the difference between an actual event and a memory.
– Trigger points do not get released via stretching. The healthy muscle on either side of the trigger point gets stretched but the stubborn point remains.
– Trigger points don’t release with foam rolling. I believe that all athletes should foam roll the big muscle groups, but have not seen any trigger point diminish as a result of rolling.
– Trigger points don’t respond to general sport massage either.
– Trigger points do respond to specific levels of pressure placed on them.
– Trigger points do respond to kinesio tape.
– Trigger points do respond to dry needling.
Other Trigger Point/Storm Hints.
Simons et al suggest that the following might contribute to trigger point formation.
– Hormonal – Oestrogen and thyroid deficiency may impact the endoplasmic environment. Lowe & Honeyman-Lowe
– Allergies – May contribute – Brostoff, 1992
– Chronic viral, yeast or parasite infection – May increase likelihood of trigger points – Ferguson & Gerwin, 2004
– Vitamin C & Iron deficiency – Deficiency may perpetuate trigger point longevity. It’s estimated 10-15% of people with chronic myofascial pain syndromes may be iron deficient. (Simons, 1999)
– Vitamin B12 deficiency – May increase tiredness, fatigue and increase chronic trigger point formation.
– Folic acid – May change internal endoplasmic environment sufficiently to increase trigger point development.
1. Trigger points compromise the smooth, efficient movement of a muscle.
2. Any compromised muscle will cause the body to adjust its movement patterns, which in turn will put it at risk of other injuries.
3. All of the following matter: movement, posture, stretching, massage & nutrition.