Did you know that there are over 400 muscles in your body? Every day they work in unison, just like the musicians in an orchestra, giving our body the gift of motion. From the simplest movement to the most complex, each muscle is connected. When something goes wrong, as with an injury or surgery, the results are instantaneous and obvious. Our body no longer exhibits fluid movement, flexibility, or the range that it did. We experience pain and discomfort. But, it does not require a significant injury or surgery for our muscles to encounter dysfunction. Everyday activities can lead to problems that manifest itself as trigger points.
Trigger points is a term that massage therapists, chiropractors, those in rehabilitation and physical therapy will use to identify areas of pain or tenderness on a patient they are working with. Underneath our skin, every muscle, organ, tendon, nerve, and blood vessel is covered by fascia. Fascia is the thin sheath of fibrous tissue that holds everything in place within us. Myofascia is the fascia that covers the muscles. Because we rely so much on our muscles every day, they are prone to overuse and stress. When this happens, the myofascia can tear and then adhere together preventing the muscles from working as they should. This, in turn, causes the “knots” you feel in areas like your neck and shoulders which massage therapists, chiropractors, and rehabilitation specialists call – trigger points.
In reality, trigger points have a domino effect on our body’s ability to function because it leads to an increase in muscle stiffness and tenderness and a decrease in range of motion. Also, there is something called referral pain. This is the result of the discomfort radiating from the adhesion or trigger point. This can happen in the area with the knot or another area of the body altogether. Interestingly, a vast majority of the time the pain felt is actually in a different location than what is triggering it. A great example of this referral pain is with sciatica (shooting pain in the buttocks and legs). The pain a person feels is not with the sciatic nerve, but rather from the gluteal area. The gluteal area is triggering the referral pain which is felt shooting down the buttocks and legs.
Stay tuned for Part II on both the symptoms and treatment for trigger points.