Trigger points, or muscle knots as they are more commonly known, are sensitive spots of muscle tissue, which can cause pain in the back, neck, shoulders, muscles, and even headaches. They can be caused by injury or repetitive movement and can be extremely painful long term if not treated correctly.
Trigger point therapy can help to relieve patients from this pain. During the treatment, a massage therapist will apply firm, targeted pressure to the muscle knots to help reduce the pain. Read on to discover more about trigger point therapy.
What Are Trigger Points?
If you’ve ever had a massage therapist comment on the knots in your back, she or he will most probably be referring to trigger points. These are not actually knots, but areas of tightly contracted muscles that feel firm to the touch.
The technical name for these muscle knots is ‘myofascial trigger points’ with ‘myo’ meaning muscle tissue and ‘fascia’ the connective tissue around it. In massage therapist training, you might learn that these muscles choke off their own blood supply, which causes the painful sensation.
How Are Trigger Points ‘Triggered’?
Myofascial trigger points typically occur around an injury or an overused muscle group. This is because when the muscles are stressed, they are more likely to contract and form tight, painful knots. Some common causes include:
- Repeating the same movement over and over again on a daily basis like typing
- Heavy lifting for a long period of time like carrying a baby
- Poor posture
- Muscle clenching caused by emotional stress – this is why people often associate muscle knots with being stressed
- Sports injuries
- Staying in the same position for a long time
Poor posture and stress can lead to muscle knots
Learn How Trigger Point Therapy Can Relieve Pain with Massage Therapist Training
You will learn about a number of massage styles in massage therapy courses, including trigger point therapy. Unlike a regular Swedish massage, a trigger point therapy massage is not designed to be luxurious or relaxing. Instead, it is focused on treating pain by removing muscle knots.
Trigger point therapy might not be as relaxing as a traditional massage
There are two main types of trigger point therapy: manual and dry needling. Manual involves using your hands to rub and press on painful trigger points to soften them. A massage therapist should apply varying pressure and then encourage the patient to stretch these out through movement after the massage.
Dry needling is more similar to acupuncture and uses needles to improve blood flow to the trigger points to reduce pain.
The patient can stay fully clothed throughout the massage and may experience fatigue for one or two days afterwards. This is because the tense muscles are returning to their relaxed state. Massage therapists should offer patients advice on how to reduce muscle knots in future. This could include helping the patient to improve his or her posture and prescribing regular exercise.
Are you interested in enrolling in a massage therapy program?
Contact Oxford College to find out more!