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What Causes Trigger Points?

 

Diagram of Trigger Point Complex

 

Have you ever experienced back pain or sciatica?  Do you get headaches regularly?  How about tennis elbow, carpal tunnel, or other joint pain involving the knees or shoulders?  Trigger Points are a cause of pain commonly seen at Quince Orchard Medical Center and all of our clinicians are equipped to treat them.

When your body is under stress, whether the stressor is physical or emotional, it always has a reaction to cope with it.  Trigger Points found in your skeletal muscles where your body has the potential to store that stress-energy for a long period of time. These are the locations on your muscles that exhibit extraordinary sensitivity, and in some cases, may become so stressed that they produce limited movement, stiffness, and pain.

There is a lot of information out there about Trigger Points, and it can easily become some type of vague, ethereal concept.  Quite simply, a Trigger Point is a small portion of muscle tissue that experiences extraordinary contraction.  Doctors and massage therapists can reliably target specific Trigger Points because they are always found where a motor neuron connects with the muscle.  On a microscopic level, when someone experiences pain produced from a Trigger Point, it is actually the motor neuron signaling the muscle fibers to fire off as a response to some other stimuli rather than the normal operational performance of the muscle.

Specific causes of Trigger Points can include, but are not limited to, trauma, overuse, repetitive straining, or alignment imbalances.  There can also be episodes where increased and prolonged muscle tension from an existing injury activates Trigger Points.  For example, someone sprains an ankle and then walks with a limp.  That extra strain placed on the non-injured leg could exacerbate Trigger Points in the non-injured leg.  It is also possible for existing Trigger Points to create referred pain in other parts of the body, which, in turn, activates other Trigger Points. This waterfall of symptoms can lead to chronic pain.

Unresolved pain from Trigger Points can compound, leading to more chronic problems such as those mentioned at the beginning of the article.  It’s important to know that stretching and the typical massage, ice, painkiller routine won’t resolve the irritation caused by Trigger Points.  In some cases, stretching, rubbing, or massage treatment for a muscle can make the pain worse in the long run if the Trigger Point is not released prior to working on the larger areas of the muscle.

During Trigger Point therapy, the therapist will compress the muscle fibers of the Trigger Point, which in turn makes the motor neuron and the muscle to relax the muscle contraction.  From this point, massage or stretching may be appropriate depending on a treatment plan developed with your therapist.

If you have been experiencing unresolved muscular pain, consider giving us a call.  All of our practitioners are skilled at direct and indirect treatment of these symptoms.  Although some patients suffering from activated Trigger Points only require a few visits, there are some cases that may require extended treatment.  One of the benefits of seeing our specialists at Quince Orchard Medical Center is our integrative approach to pain management and medicine, which seeks the least intensive and the least invasive approach possible.

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