Balancing Trigger Points
Working out muscle knots traditionally involves a bit of pain. What what if there were a more effective way to address them that didn’t have you jumping off of the massage table?
Trigger point is the technical term for a knot in the muscle. Pretty accurate names for these things, right? “Knot” in that these points can feel like a binding or a tying in the fibers. “Trigger point” because pressing on them triggers pain. How these form and why, is a topic I’ve covered before (here and here). But our understanding of the body is constantly evolving! So here’s an update on the thinking.
It is pretty certain that trigger points develop as a neuromuscular protective response, an attempt to counter some over stress or over strain. An attempt to correct an imbalance. We have thus far thought that since the correction is happening in the muscle, that the problem must be in the muscle as well. However, muscles have specific nerve cells that regulate strain and stress. The Golgi tendon organs prevent muscles from exerting excessive force (think of a time that you involuntarily dropped something because it was too heavy) and the muscle spindles guard against over stretch (like that time you reached back for your other coat arm and had to pull back). These proprioceptors are more than adequate to keep your muscles healthy.
Continuing to roll with this line of thinking, it would stand to reason that the majority of the pain trigger points cause would be based in the muscle at the location of the knot. But usually we feel the pain in our joints or other areas distant from the actual trigger point site. If pain is a signal that something is not right - actual or perceived, then the issue is most likely at the site of the pain, not the site of the attempted correction.
Making sense so far? Great!
So then what is the purpose of a knot? If muscles correct and protect themselves with spacial nerves, then what is a trigger point correcting and protecting? The joint! This means that a joint out of optimal position can create a situation in which the muscle is imbalanced and over or under toned because its attachment point is too close or too far away. Because ligaments and other facial structures contain far less contractile tissue than muscles, the body will tighten in an attempt to reposition the bone.
Essentially, we are saying the trigger point is the symptom, not the disease. Looking at it this way, pushing on or forcibly stretching a knot to release it (how most trigger point therapy works) is a bit like trying to fix a broken pipe by putting tape around the pressure gage. Balancing the muscle across the joint removes the reason for the trigger point’s existence, releasing it without pain. Gentle methods of bodywork such as Spontaneous Muscle Release Technique (SMRT) are perfect for addressing trigger points painlessly. Raise your hand if that sounds amazing to you! Do you have a persistent knot that never seems to go away? Are you a little scared to get a massage because you think it has to hurt to help? Let me know in the comments! And share this article with that someone you know who is always complaining of that kink in their neck… low back… everywhere… You know who I mean! ;-D
LMBT & Founder of Philosopher's Stone Therapeutic Massage
Serving Haddonfield, NJ and Surrounding Areas
Rhiannon loves helping you solve your pain puzzles! A chronic pain specialist with a sub-specialty in pelvic dysfunction, she
understands the huge impact pain can have on your life and is dedicated to helping you reach your health goals so you can enjoy your life fully and whole. Though her style can sometimes be described as "therapeutic fluff," she is not the therapist to see for a "just to treat myself" massage.
Augmenting her initial massage training with multiple courses and certifications including SMRT, ATMAT, and IHPS she has the skills to create effective and lasting change for you. But don't go on blind faith - check out her amazing reviews!