8 Ways to Unlock Your Movements and Relieve Myofascial Pain
Releasing trigger points will quickly improve your range of motion and increase strength while reducing pain and fatigue. Trigger points are shortened portions of the muscle that are not releasing, which are irritable, have limited blood and oxygen flow, are tender to touch and generally painful. These nodules can be as small as a grain of salt or as large as a golf ball. A result is a large number of symptoms including referred pain, muscle weakness, loss of coordination and autonomic functions such as balance, digestion, vision disturbances and bladder control termed myofascial pain syndrome.
Before we get to the eight steps, we need understand the different types of trigger points. Travell and Simons describe primary, secondary, central, attachment, latent, active and satellite trigger points that need to be deactivated to relieve myofascial pain and increase range of motion. The knots in the middle of the sacromere (the smallest contractile unit of the muscle) called central trigger points (CTrP) create the main “taut band” between each end of the muscle fiber where it attaches to the bone, much like a knot in a rope. Constant tension pulls at each end where attachment trigger points (ATrP) develop to further restrict movement.
Primary trigger points appear in overloaded or shortened fibers. Since the body works in opposing and synergistic ways to create movement and stability, secondary trigger points develop in muscles with primary trigger points such as in the chest with secondary trigger points in the rhomboids (back between the shoulder blades) after sitting at a desk for a long period of time.
Active trigger points often start to scream at us before we pay attention, while latent trigger points are only sensitive when pressure is applied. Finally, satellite trigger points are activated by primary ones in other parts of the same muscle.
If you stretch before releasing the trigger points, you continue to create more tension by tightening the original knots. The idea behind stretching and trigger point release is to place each muscle and joint at its optimal functional resting length.
We will often instinctively self-massage active trigger points that are giving us the most pain for temporary relief, including those at muscle attachments.
8 Steps to Unlocking Restricted Movement and Relieving Myofascial Pain
- Search for and deactivate central primary trigger points, which can also be latent. That will give you relief and enable the other ones to calm down.
- Explore and deactivate secondary central trigger points.
- Explore and deactivate satellite and attachment trigger points.
- Release both sides, starting with the side that is most symptomatic. Repeat the most symptomatic side twice.
- Don’t try to completely eliminate the trigger points in one session. If they are chronic, it may take a few days/sessions.
- Complete gentle range of motion movements and stretches. Both stretches and unloaded movements need to be pain-free and just to the first point of resisted motion.
- Stay well-hydrated.
- Remove perpetuating factors thought it’s not always easy to do because of occupation (prolonged positions, repetitive tasks), sport, daily activities, cold, poor nutrition and lack of hydration.
In future posts, we will explore how trigger points develop, perpetuating factors and a few techniques of how to self-release trigger points. In the meantime, here are some great resources:
Trigger Self-Treatment Guide at Amazon.