My own experience of Trigger Point Therapy led to a fascination in this simple but such effective treatment for pain. I first went to a therapist who specialised in Trigger Point Therapy for my right upper side which had started off as shoulder pain but had gradually extended up to my neck and down my arm and into my hand. It was painful to use the computer mouse and it was affecting my work, training and emotional state.
I had used massage therapists in the past but not one who was so precise and specific in her treatment. I remember being amazed by the way she treated and its effectiveness, treating specific muscles on and around the site of pain. It was uncomfortable, but there was a pleasure and relief in being treated. I went to her for several weekly sessions and remember being practically pain free by the end of it.
What are Trigger Points?
A Trigger point is commonly known as a ‘muscle knot’. They are small areas of tightly contracted muscle and can cause pain and reduced mobility within the body. They are found in anywhere from 21% to 93% of individuals with pain complaints.
– If you press on a trigger point it can feel painful or sore.
– Pressing on a trigger point can often refer pain into another area of the body.
Trigger Point Therapy aims to release these ‘knots’ and bring the body back to its natural healthy state.
The site of your pain (where it hurts) is not necessarily the source of your pain. Knowledge of Trigger Point Therapy can help establish the actual site of your pain. Lower back pain for example can be caused by Trigger Points in your Iliopsoas muscles (hip flexors). Pain in your upper arm and shoulder can be caused by Trigger Points in your Infraspinatus muscle (a muscle located over the back of your shoulder blade).
The pain pattern of Trigger Points can often be mistaken for other common complaints. For example, trigger points in the Scalene muscles (located in your neck) can reproduce symptoms in your arm and hand. This pain pattern is commonly misdiagnosed as carpal tunnel syndrome, which can lead to invasive surgery. Symptoms can easily be treated with trigger point therapy.
The SCM muscles (Sternocleidomastoid), again found in the neck, can refer pain into the face, head and jaw if filled with Trigger Points, causing horrendous symptoms such as headaches/ migraines, dizziness, jaw pain and face pain.
Trigger points in the Piriformis muscle, located in the buttock, can refer pain into the sacroiliac region, the buttock and the hip joint, sometimes causing pain down the leg, commonly confused with sciatica.
How do we get Trigger Points?
– Direct or chronic overload of a particular muscle
-Overwork fatigue caused by excessive or repetitive actions
-Trauma to the muscle
-Compression or chilling of the muscle
-Leaving the muscle in a shortened position for extended periods of time such as sleeping or sitting for extended periods or holding the phone between the ear of shoulder.
– Visceral disease, viral disease and emotional stress.
Treatment for Trigger Points
– Treatment for trigger points can include heat application, static compression, fascial techniques (Myofascial Release) and the insertion of needles into the Trigger Point itself (Medical acupuncture).
– It is important to locate and treat all surrounding muscles located in the pain pattern.
Based on the theory of Trigger Point Therapy for treating pain, it suggests that if we only treat the area of pain, results are unlikely to achieve lasting results. It is likely that if the cause is Trigger Points and you only treat the area of pain, you will be in the wrong place 75% of the time (Chaitow and DeLany 2000,p.69).
The good news is that you can learn to do Trigger Point Therapy on yourself (of course, working with an expert therapist is going to get you results quicker and more effectively). A great book to learn about Trigger Points and how to treat them yourself is ‘The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook’, by Clair Davies.
So, if you have been trying to treat your pain condition and have only been looking at the site of pain, it may be time to broaden your approach.
‘The diagnoses only tells you where inflammation is showing up. It doesn’t tell you why it started.’ (stopchasingpain.com)
It’s your choice
How you choose to deal with your pain is up to you. Bodywork can be an excellent ‘drug free’ way of treating your pain. Combining it with other investigative techniques such as talking therapy or emotional freedom technique can be even more effective. Nutrition, exercise and lifestyle adjustments can also bring about positive changes in relation to your pain. Kay has an excellent network of professionals that she can refer you to should you need further assistance. Please discuss this with her and she will be happy to advise.
‘Pain can be a good thing as it is the body’s way of warning us that there is a problem that needs to be corrected.’
Pain is generally divided into two categories, Acute and Chronic.
Acute pain generally occurs due to an accident, or incident such as surgery, and this can cause potential pain, swelling, inflammation, and decreased range of motion. The general advise for this during the initial stages is to rest, ice, compress and elevate the affected area. Pain that has occurred through no apparent incident or accident can be treated straight away. If you are unsure, please call Kay for a chat and she will advise you of the best course of action.
Chronic Pain can be anything from 6 months to 60 yrs! This type of pain can continue even after the injury or illness that caused it has healed or gone away. Pain signals remain active in the nervous system for weeks, months, or years. Some people suffer chronic pain even when there is no past injury or apparent body damage. The treatment of Chronic Pain can take one session or several sessions and this all depends on several factors including lifestyle, psychological and emotional distress, thought processes, postural imbalances, repetition and how long the pain condition has taken to evolve. Having said that, just because you have had something for 60 years, it doesn’t mean it will take longer to recover. When the body is ready to heal, it will heal!
The Effects of Chronic Pain
People who have chronic pain can have physical effects that are stressful on the body. These include tense muscles, limited ability to move around, a lack of energy, and appetite changes. Emotional effects of chronic pain include depression, anger, anxiety, and fear of re-injury. Such a fear might limit a person’s ability to return to their regular work or leisure activities.
The Body-Mind Connection
The Body-Mind connection acknowledges that pain and injury can occur due to our thought process, emotional blocks and limiting beliefs and can play havoc in our body…and certainly if we have emotional pain that is not dealt with it can accumulate as pain and restriction in the body. Our bodies are literally trying to tell us something! Treating the body and the person is the most effective form of pain relief.
“A wise physician said to me, ‘I have been practising medicine for 30 years and I have prescribed many things. But in the long run I have learned that for most of what ails the human creature, the best medicine is love.”
“What if it doesn’t work?” I asked.
“Double the dose,” he replied.
Case Study 1
Jo (38) was suffering from Chronic Sinus Headaches. Pressure and pain were felt around her nose, eyes and head. They were gradually getting worse and had gone from occasional, to having them daily and had little relief from them using over the counter medicine. She did not want to continue using traditional pain relief so she sought the help of Kay.
Kay discussed her symptoms with her and discovered that she was actually feeling pressure in her life and relationships. She was someone who was putting a lot of pressure on herself and lived a lot in her mind. The pressure was literally in her head! When treating Jo, Kay found that she had a lot of tension in her back, neck and shoulders and in particular an area in her back when treated for trigger points, referred pain into the same areas in her head and face. As well as giving her a thorough treatment, Kay gave Jo several home- care techniques to assist with her treatment which included self-trigger point exercises and stretches. Kay also discussed how she could make changes in her life and thought processes to relieve some of the pressure that Jo was feeling. Jo visited Kay for 4 weekly sessions and is now pain free and able to manage her symptoms when and if they arise. She occasionally visits Kay when she needs a ‘top up’.
Case Study 2
Linda (45) was suffering from pain in her right side. She had neck and shoulder pain, lower back and hip pain which sometimes extended down into her right knee. The pain was impacting on her daily life and her training/running.
During her first initial consultation, Kay carried out a postural analysis, she identified that Linda’s left shoulder was sitting much higher than her right causing imbalances in her spine. Her pelvis was tilted to the left, likely from years of carrying children on her hip. She also lacked self-confidence. Linda had regular treatments from Kay to re-align and release tension from the postural imbalances, and was given several tools and techniques to reduce further problems. Linda now sees a Personal Trainer on Kay’s recommendation to improve her core and body strength, which gives her greater confidence in herself and helps to prevent further problems and support her running.
Bodywork can help with a range of conditions. If yours is not listed here, please speak to Kay to find out if she can help you.
- Neck and Shoulder Pain
- Frozen Shoulder
- Rotator Cuff Injury
- Wrist and Forearm Pain
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Tennis/ Golfers Elbow
- Back Pain
- Spondylosis/ Spondylolisthesis
- Facet Joint Irritation Syndrome
- Herniated Disc
- Sacroiliac (SI) Joint Pain
- Piriformis Syndrome
- Hip and Pelvis Pain
- TMJ, Face and Jaw Pain
- Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI)
- Myofascial Pain
- Chronic Fatigue
- Stress and Muscular Tension
- The Physical Impact of Emotional Trauma
What do I wear?
Whatever you are comfortable in. During the first session Kay may ask you undress to your underwear, if this is comfortable for you, in order to carry out a visual assessment. This is not mandatory. If you are more comfortable in shorts and a vest top/t-shirt, you are more than welcome to change into them. If you would rather not have a visual assessment at all, this is totally fine and we can work around it. The main thing is that you are comfortable. If you have concerns about the visual assessment please chat to Kay about it during the initial discussion. During the treatment it is usual for you to undress to your underwear, however you will be covered by a towel at all times.
How long is the initial consultation and what does it involve?
The initial consultation is usually an hour. However, shorter or longer appointments are available depending on your requirements. You will be asked to complete a thorough health and history form prior to your appointment. During the initial meeting Kay likes to get a feel for what is really going on. She will investigate your spiritual, emotional and physical well-being and the patterns and processes that have led to your pain condition. This will involve open discussion, but you do not have to talk about anything you do not wish to. This is a safe space for you.
Following the consultation and assessment a treatment will take place, this is another opportunity for Kay to thoroughly assess and gain insight into what is happening for you and the best way to encourage recovery.
Following your treatment Kay may give you some home-care, this will be based around discussion, education and practise. She will take into account your spiritual, emotional, and physical needs and may involve practical, emotional and lifestyle advice.
How quickly should I expect to feel better?
It depends! Everyone is different and at Shore Massage and Bodywork we treat everyone as unique. Some people can expect to feel a change straight away… others do take longer. Changes and improvement in well-being are dependent on a number of factors including lifestyle, stress, emotional and physical factors. Therefore, it depends! Feel free to discuss your unique situation with Kay!
How often do I need to see Kay?
It depends! There is no right or wrong. You may only need to see her once and this may be enough. People need support in different ways so whilst one person may feel the benefit of one treatment alone and encouraged to continue with their home-care, another person may feel the benefit of a regular treatment and support. This can be weekly, fortnightly, monthly, 6 weekly – whatever suits your needs, lifestyle and budget. Together a tailor made treatment plan will be forged.
Will the treatment hurt?
With Sports Massage it isn’t uncommon to feel some sort of ‘uncomfortable’ sensation. This can range from a feeling of discomfort, pressure or pain, however many would describe this as ‘good’ pain. It can feel good to have someone work on the areas that have been causing you so much pain and discomfort. With Myofascial release, due to its nature of ‘stretching’ the fascia with certain techniques, it can feel like a chinese burn or that a finger nail is scratching you, but it can also feel very releasing and satisfying to feel like you are being stretched and released. With the acupuncture needles, you may feel a sharp scratch initially, a hot sensation or a feeling of warmth and relaxation! How you respond to treatment can vary, everyone’s tolerance levels are different, therefore we work within your pain threshold. Kay normally tries to work below your level of 7 out of 10 (10 being extremely painful and not somewhere we want to go!) but we can discuss this at the beginning of your session. Using breathe work can really help to relax you during the session. The more relaxed you are, the more effective the treatment will be and we bear that in mind.
Do I have to talk about emotional stuff, I just want a treatment!
No of course you don’t! Not everyone is comfortable disclosing their life! Kay works with you to find out what it is you want from the session and tailors it to suit you. If you want to lie down for an hour that is not a problem!