Myofascial Pain, Trigger Points and Self Massage

Updated: Oct 23, 2018

We have all heard the terms ‘Myofascial Pain’ and ‘Trigger points’ being thrown around at the gym, doctors, physiotherapist etc but what actually is it and how can you help reduce the symptoms of it. There is a lot of research surrounding the topic, and still more research being done as we speak. All we can say is that, there has been a lot of success with treating these so called ‘Trigger Points’ so we are a great advocate for doing so. Here is a bit of background around the topic and a little more detail for those who want to learn a bit more.


HERES ALL THE SCIENCY STUFF....


Myofascial pain syndrome (MPS) is described as the sensory, motor, and autonomic symptoms caused by myofascial trigger points.

Trigger points are defined as exquisitely tender spots in discrete taut bands of hardened muscle that produce local and referred pain, among other symptoms.

A trigger point is composed of numerous so-called contraction knots. An individual contraction knot appears as a segment of a muscle fibre with extremely contracted sarcomeres and an increased diameter.

An active trigger point causes a clinical pain complaint. It is always tender and refers a patient-recognised pain on compression. It prevents full lengthening of the muscle, weakens the muscle, and mediates a local twitch response of muscle fibres when adequately stimulated. When compressed within the patient’s pain tolerance, it produces referred motor and often autonomic phenomena, generally in its pain reference zone.

A latent trigger point is “clinically quiescent with respect to spontaneous pain; it is painful only when palpated. A latent trigger point may have all the other clinical characteristics of an active trigger point and always has a taut band that increases muscle tension and restricts range of motion”.

Knowing the potential causes of trigger points is important to prevent their development and recurrence, but also to inactivate and eliminate existing trigger points. There is general agreement that any kind of muscle overuse or direct trauma to the muscle can lead to the development of trigger points. Muscle overload is thought to be the result of sustained or repetitive low-level muscle contractions, eccentric muscle contractions, and maximal or submaximal concentric muscle contractions. Although muscle damage is not required for the development of trigger point, there may be a disruption of the cell membrane, damage to the sarcoplasmic reticulum with a subsequent release of high amounts of calcium-ions, and disruption of cytoskeletal proteins, such as desmin, titin, and dystrophin.



SELF TREATING


All those times at the physiotherapists, sports masseuse, spa’s etc, when all you want is that specific muscle/point on your body dealt with, and you know exactly where to find it, but it’s difficult to guide them to wear it actually is. Most minor trigger points are normally self-treatable a do not particularly require a healthcare professional. Learning to treat yourself is a great way to maintain your body in good health.


Treating yourself has a lot of benefits:


1. YOU DECIDE HOW MUCH PRESSURE TO APPLY – This can be a big positive. There is nothing more frustrating when having a massage or trigger point therapy when the therapist pushes way too hard. Your body goes into an automatic reflex and tightens, which is having the opposite effect of what you need – RELAXATION. With self-treatment, you can play around with the pressure applied and decide what feels the most comfortable. You’ll be in a more relaxed state as you are not anticipating what pain or pressure might be applied next. If the discomfort becomes too much, then just stop or ease the pressure, simple.


2. MULTIPLE TREATMENTS A DAY – Although it’s great going for a treatment or massage with your therapist for an hour or so, what can really benefit you is treating your body multiple times throughout the day. We’ve all had the feeling of leaving after a massage and feeling great for the rest of the day but that fades away and normality (for you) resumes. Having the option of consistently treating yourself throughout the day enables your body to get used to the pressure and feeling of not being tight, therefore changes can be made quicker than normal.


3. COST EFFECTIVE – Having treatments can be an expense that is just too much. Depending on whether you have the option of insurance covering them, multiple treatments can be very costly. Self-massage is a cheap, safe and cost-effective way to help reduce the pain and discomfort you experience and also limit the amount of times you need to see a doctor/physiotherapist. (vm-perform set of massage balls)


4. ANYWHERE, ANYTIME – Have a tight area whilst your cooking dinner, have a self-massage. That knot causing you trouble during a movie, have a self-massage. Granted, you could get some funny looks whilst your prodding yourself with a rubber ball, but this is the beauty of DIY massage, you can treat whenever and wherever! Better to be pain free and look silly, then to be in pain and look even sillier.



Just to end, I am not discrediting the healthcare professionals work, I am a Sport Rehabilitator myself, where I am qualified in sports massage. I treat trigger points all the time with my clients, but for most people this is not a viable option due to a number of factors that I’ve mentioned above. Alternative treatments such as self-massage can really help with someone’s pain and discomfort, so this should be utilised as much as possible. If you are experiencing new, extreme and debilitating pain, then obviously go and see a healthcare professional to get the pain properly diagnosed. If still unsure, consult your healthcare professional and ask them if your pain could be helped by self-massage.



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