Our first post of 2014 is a guest post! I was contacted by Naomi Kuttner and was impressed with both her depth of knowledge and writing style, and she happens to be a fan of the site too. Check out her article below – I utilize myofascial release in my everyday life and at this point I couldn’t imagine life with out it. Read on to find out why:
Have you ever had a nagging tension headache that just wouldn’t go away? Or a sore back that didn’t make sense – but kept on aching? Or perhaps hand and wrist pain (worse when you type) that defied your best efforts to use ergonomic braces and perfect typing technique? It’s quite possible that any – or all – of these problems are caused by Myofascial Trigger Points.
What are Trigger Points?
Trigger points are small areas of spasm in your muscle. They’re part of a system of protective reflexes that keep you safe. Problem sometimes occur, however, when the protective reflex doesn’t switch off. The thing is, for people who are passionate about being educated in self care and body maintenance – trigger points are one of the most useful and overlooked bodies of knowledge.
Furthermore, knowing how to release triggers is vital know-how for sportspeople, runners, cyclists and yoga practitioners. In fact – this knowledge is highly useful for anyone who wants to stay fit and flexible. The great thing about trigger treatment is that for 95% of points, you can switch them off yourself – and feel a new freedom of movement as your muscles relax. The first essential step is to understand exactly how trigger points work – and how they get switched on.
Let’s look at an example. Supposing you were walking along and you trip over. Faster than you can think, your muscles tighten up to protect you so that you don’t hit your head when you fall. This is the protective reflex in your body that causes trigger points. It does a great at keeping you safe. But sometimes, the muscles that tightened up to prevent you hurting yourself don’t relax.
This is when you get trigger points. Now – trigger points are unusual in that they can cause pain far away from the point itself. For instance there is a trigger point in your upper trapezius that causes pain to radiate up into your neck and head. This point creates a classic muscle tension headache. Most people would take a panadol to treat this type of headache. But if the headache is caused by trigger points, then you can turn it off yourself in about 2 minutes, using a pressure point technique called ischemic compression.
How to use the Ischemic Compression Technique
Here’s a video showing exactly how to do an ischemic trigger point release on the point that causes tension headaches.
Now, it’s important to remember that a trigger point can be anywhere in your body – that is, in any muscle of your body. The fascinating thing is that their location and the pain pattern each trigger causes is remarkably predictable. All the trigger points and their pain patterns were mapped by two doctors called Travell and Simons in the 60’s, and their work is still valid today.
When you have a muscle pain that’s not going away, most experts will look for a cause like tendinitis, or RSI, or an inflammatory condition like arthritis. Sometimes one of these conditions is the cause. However very often a muscular cause of pain – and trigger points – is completely overlooked.
You can find all the major trigger points and their pain patterns mapped out in these free trigger point charts. If one of the pain patterns matches what you’re feeling, then it’s well worth spending 2-3 minutes to see if you can’t find and switch off the trigger point.
Once you get your own toolkit for dealing with muscle pain you’ll find out how empowering it is to be able to find the source of a muscle ache – and switch it off. You can to this painlessly, using just your hands and little pressure in the right spot.