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  • Writer's pictureErienne Blanchard

What is a trigger point?

Trigger points are something you probably have heard of from other health care professions, friends, family, and perhaps other therapists. Do you know what they are? Neither do we!

Patient is face down and a therapist has thumbs along the muscles of the spine to relieve pressure

The health care field describes them as taught bands of tissue within a muscle that cause referred pain. They can be active trigger points in that just sitting still and you have referred pain from the top of your shoulder to behind your ear. They can be latent trigger points in that the referred pain only happens when you touch the point. Either way, the tissue that is touched refers pain to another area that is not on the same nerve area.

We don’t know exactly what they are as the health care field has done biopsy testing, biochemical testing, etc. We believe they are stemming from an energy deprivation in that the muscle was asked to endure a task beyond its normal capabilities and as it continues to try to accomplish what you are asking (sitting still and typing at your desk) the muscle becomes more and more depleted of the neurochemicals it needs to let go and relax thereby staying in an activated on state. This state further uses up the chemicals and gets stuck in an on position. This causes referred pain.

A patient is seated and facing away. There is a therapist with their thumb and hand gripping and releasing the trigger point at the end of the scapulae closest to the spine.

So now that we have an idea of a trigger point, an area of muscle stuck in the on position, what can we do about them to stop the pain and alleviate the irritation? Great question! The quickest home thing you can do is to use a tennis ball or lacrosse ball on the spot a lean your body weight into the muscle. This is usually the least painful when you lean up against the wall. Lying down on the floor with it adds more weight and thereby more pressure so be careful and use as much pressure as you can tolerate. You should hold that for a minute or two until the referred pain (pain felt along the ear) stops or reduces greatly. You can do this as often as you need.

A picture of a tennis ball resting on the while line of a tennis court. Close up photo.

If your trigger points continue to come back or are not relieved with this technique, you should seek help as a physical therapist can help quickly with soft tissue mobilization (like massage but not), manipulation of the joints that may be perpetuating the nerve stimulation (like chiropractic but not), dry needling to get the muscle to let go quickly (like acupuncture but not), and then exercises to strengthen and stabilize so that the muscles don‘t get into such an energy deprived state as they were before treatment.

Seek out a physical therapist to assist you in reducing your pain quickly and getting you back to activity and work with less discomfort.

Call me today to start your journey 352-727-0472.

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