Muscular Trigger Points

The Mayhem of Muscular Trigger Points

Let’s explore:

Knots, speed bumps, trigger points…You have all heard these terms and have most likely experienced the negative effects of these little gremlins, but what are they and what do you do about them? Read on.

Muscles are made up of groups of fascicles, fascicles are made up of groups of fibres, fibres are made up of groups of fibrils, and fibrils are made up of groups of filaments.

Your muscles work when these filaments slide on each other to shorten or lengthen your muscles. Trigger points are basically areas in the muscles where these filaments become dysfunctional and don’t slide, forming “knots”. If the fibers don’t slide to shorten the muscle then you can’t contract and generate force to your full potential. If they don’t slide to lengthen the muscle then you can’t get as flexible as you potentially could be.

So think about that…your exercise efforts right now may be limited if you have trigger points. Meaning you are not getting as flexible as you could and you are not getting as strong as you could either…no matter how hard you work. Have you tried to strengthen a muscle for months and still don’t feel stronger, or have you been stretching your hamstrings for years and not feeling more flexible? Well, these gremlins could be the reason.

Let’s put these trigger points into two buckets.

Active Trigger points

These are the ones we know about. Have you ever woken up in the morning with a pain in your neck (not talking about your sleeping partner, but your actual neck)? Have you worked out really hard and developed tightness and pain in a muscle? Have you sat too long at your computer reading my newsletters and developed pain in your hips or back? Well, these can most likely be active trigger points.

Latent trigger points

These silent-but-deadly trigger points are wreaking havoc and you don’t know about them because they have been slowly developing for a long time and are not painful. Sooner or later they will let you know by leading to dysfunction, pain and injury. Have you ever seen a massage therapist for a “nice” massage and they touch a spot on your muscle that causes you to jump and scream? Do you remember foam rolling for the first time and almost vomiting on the floor? This could be from latent trigger points.

No matter the type of trigger point they can arise from a variety of factors like:

  1. hard exercise efforts: too much, too soon, too fast, too heavy…
  2. overuse: running every day, too much pickleball…
  3. poor posture: screen use postures…
  4. stress: need I say more…
  5. prolonged sitting: the ultimate nemesis of muscle wellness.
  6. lack of regular tissue health: no stretching, no massage…

So now that you know what they are and how they got inside your body there are some things you can do to help. Now keep in mind that not all techniques work for all people and all trigger points but incorporating any of these recommendations should help.

  1. Self-massage: Get yourself a foam roller, massage gun, lacrosse ball, tennis ball… Performing tissue preparation techniques before you run or exercise and if you have time after as well. The deep pressure of these techniques can increase blood flow and relax trigger points.
  2. Stretching: Stretching promotes enhanced blood flow and the release of tension, coaxing those trigger points to submit.
  3. Professional help: A knowledgeable practitioner who can find trigger points with the accuracy of a surgeon is probably the best defense against these little gremlins. With skilled hands and tools like dry needles, metal instruments, and massage guns they wage war against those mischievous knots, bringing you closer to a state of muscular equilibrium. An amazing combination is when a manual session is followed by gentle stretching…oh yeah!
  4. Thermal agents: The age-old technique of employing heat and/or cold becomes your ally in the crusade against trigger points. Alternating between warm and cold is my favorite to change blood flow, alleviate pain, and reduce inflammation,
  5. Stress Management: Engage in activities that grant you respite from life’s stressors, such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, and engaging in fun activities.

Embrace these proven techniques with a touch of lightheartedness, witness the transformation, and unleash your body’s true potential.

If you are wondering what my favorite of all the techniques is:

 

…drum roll please…

 

Dry needling from a skilled practitioner followed by a solid self-care programis a true game changer in my professional opinion.

Put this in your routine and truly obtain muscular health.

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