Our quick-flip lifestyles can be rather hard on our bodies. We spend so much time worrying about our next task, we never take time out for ourselves, let alone give ourselves anytime for any self-care.
Oftentimes, I will have someone visit me who is in a crisis, meaning they are in so much pain, they need to see me right away. When they call in such distress, I can only imagine their body will have substantial knots or as we like to refer to them, "trigger points".
The typical phone call or office visit usually sounds something like, "I must have slept wrong", "My low back hurts really bad", "I woke up with a headache" or they may say something like "I am having pain between my shoulder blades".
I get asked by a lot of my clients where do these nasty knots come from? Why are they there? There are many factors that result in trigger points so this isn't an easy question to answer. Because I get asked often about them, I feel I've been presented with an opportunity to address trigger points.
The definition of a trigger point by authors and pioneers in the field of trigger point study, Travell and Simons is, "a highly irritable localized spot of exquisite tenderness in a nodule in a palpable taught band of muscle tissue". Really, what that means is trigger points hurt like heck when the massage therapist places her elbow in them.
Now that we have the definition of a trigger points, let's delve more into their physiology. First, we must start with the basic unit of a muscle, the contractile unit known as a sarcomere. Trigger points exists when when these contractile units are unable to release from their contracted state. When these sarcomeres are unable to relax, they are unable to circulate blood and fulfill any metabolic need. This results in oxygen deprivation and can result in accumulation of metabolic waste products which can cause further irritation.
Individuals with trigger points near the neck and shoulders may report a numbness and tingling in their fingers. This is due to the enlarging of the muscle and its ability to compress nerves that have to pass through it. Sometimes, it is labeled by physicians and peripheral neuropathy.
The effects of trigger points can be far-reaching. Most individuals who are experiencing active trigger points will have limited movement. This is because trigger points will keep the muscles short and stiff. Trigger points also have an interesting effect on the central nervous system. Authors Travell and Simons have also listed some of these effects to be quite unimaginable from, reddening of the eyes, excessive tearing, blurred vision, droopy eyelid, goosebumps to persistent nasal secretions.
What are some trigger point causes? There are some obvious causes such as accidents, falls, strains and overwork. Ever overdo it at the gym? The effects can last for days and sometimes weeks long after the event occurred. There are also avoidable and unavoidable muscle abuse that factor in as
Avoidable muscle abuse such as chronic overloading in work situations also known as "overuse syndrome," repetitive motions injury," and repetitive strain. Basically, this means you worked the heck out of these muscles beyond their endurance threshold and now they are angry at you! I remember many years ago my right shoulder and neck would always hurt. It wasn't until I saw a massage therapist that I realized I was spending many of my days shuffling through airports and I would always carry my heavy laptop bag over my right shoulder.
There is the unavoidable muscle abuse that results from falls, accidents and collisions. Other muscle abuse can occur from surgeries where the muscle is cut and stretched, prolonged immobility such as casts can provoke trigger points.
Why do trigger points seem to come back? This too is a very complex question to answer. There are many factors that result in persistence of trigger points.
Physical Factors such as bone structure, physical irregularities, postural stress, poor work habits, repetitive motion, lack of excercise are some physical factors. One of my teachers said it best. I don't remember word for word what he said but here's the gist, during our lifetimes, we are always fighting gravity. It's tough on our bodies and if our bodies aren't supported in this fight, they will either give up the fight or scream like hell.
Nutritional inadequacies. A lack in vital nutrients such as vitamins, B1, B6 and B12 and C and minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron and potassium have been shown in patients with persistent trigger points. A balance of calcium, magnesium, iron and potassium are required for proper muscle function. Inadequate ingestion and absorption of nutrients due to excessive consumption of caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco are factors as well.
There are also emotional and psychological factors as well. Chronic tensing or guarding that never give muscles a chance to relax are sure to persist trigger points. In a previous life, I used to be an outage coordinator, where I was responsible for coordination of resources when an outage occurred. These were very stressful situations, I would sit for hours on end on a conference call bridge with my shoulders tensed up. I would go home with the worst tension headaches.
One of the best ways to mitigate these trigger points is to have a licensed massage therapist work them out. They are specially trained and skilled to feel for them and help them dissolve away. Keep in mind the factors listed above.
Lifestyle changes and regular bodywork will help keep your muscles and body nice and healthy.
We offer affordable wellness plans that make it easy for anyone to fit regular bodywork in their budget. You can find out more about ithere.