My last three blog articles have focused on preventing trigger points, but what if it’s too late for that? Obviously life isn’t perfect, and we all get injured at some point. Here's what I recommend to my clients to treat their own trigger points.
First a review: trigger points are tight bands or knots in a muscle that get activated and create a specific pain pattern. The pain may be distant to the originating muscle, and then can cause a trigger point in the muscle(s) in that area with a cascade effect of soreness.
Start by finding the taut bands within the muscles. These are “exquisitely tender” points as described by Travell. Search around the surrounding area, because there will be more than you think. Often pain in the neck starts with trigger points in the shoulders.
Once you find the spots, you want to press them—but not with a vengeance. Bonnie Pruden in Pain Erasure (http://www.amazon.com/Pain-Erasure-Bonnie-Prudden/dp/0871319837) recommends a firm touch for 10 to 15 seconds. The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook (http://www.amazon.com/Trigger-Point-Therapy-Workbook-Self-Treatment/dp/1572243759) proposes circular motions. (By the way, this book by Clair Davies is receiving absolutely rave reviews. One of my clients told me how much it helped her relieve the chronic pain in her shoulder. More information at http://www.triggerpointbook.com/.)
It’s important to get all of the contributing points, not just the one or two that hurt most. Trigger points travel in packs. If you don’t address them all, the ones you relieve are more likely to come back. As soon as you feel your pain returning, gently press on all of the related points to stop the progression.
Use your thumbs and fingers a little as possible. You don’t want to create a new set of trigger points that start with sore fingers. Many people like using a TheraCane (http://www.amazon.com/TheraCane-Massager-Trigger-Training-Manual/dp/B0007YZ1BM), because it reaches around the back and provides leverage. There’s also the low tech solution of tennis or racquet balls, but the surface area will be too large for some points. The handle of a wooden spoon was suggested, too. This site has several products, www.pressurepositive.com.
If all else fails, a visit to a bodywork practitioner who is experienced in trigger points can help. And, for the most persistent, stubborn cases, a physiatrist (not a psychiatrist) has more medical options.