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Trigger Finger: A Layperson’s Guide to Trigger Points


By Columnist Matthew Nikitakis – Massage Therapist:

Massage Therapy Regenerates Your Health and is Empowering


You’ve probably been there… You’re lying on the massage table. You’ve just finished telling your therapist about the incredible pain you’ve been feeling in your shoulders. Then your therapist starts massaging somewhere other than your shoulders…

I’ve met people who find this very frustrating, since they believe their therapist is simply ignoring their individual needs and going through a ‘standard treatment routine.’ Granted, there are some therapists who do this. Some, however, massage you differently because they know something you don’t; they know how to work trigger points.

What are Trigger Points?

The term trigger point was defined by Janet Travell, M.D., and David Simons as “a hyperirritable locus within a taut band of skeletal muscle, located in the muscular tissue and/or its associated fascia.” So what’s this mean in plain English? Basically, a trigger point is a point within a band of muscle where the muscle is stuck in the ON (tensed) position instead of being able to switch OFF (relaxed).

Trigger points often form in muscles that are chronically or regularly stressed or overworked. This can be due to overuse, bad posture, or other factors.

Trigger Points and Pain Difference

But, the fascinating thing about trigger points is that active ones will often refer pain AWAY from the damaged muscle. A classic example is someone who suffers from chronic neck pain, perhaps due to sitting at a desk at work 8-hours a day. They assume the problem is in their neck. But nine times out of ten, the trigger point is actually hiding down in the region between their shoulder blades (the trapezius muscles). These muscles often take a lot of strain, and when they get stuck in the ON position the body tries to force us to stop using it.

So what does it do? Well, rather than focus the pain on the problem area itself, the body throws the pain up to the neck. Why? Because when we have pain in our neck (and no, I’m not talking about certain workmates), all we really want to do is LIE DOWN. And lying down lets the trapezius muscles rest.

In a nutshell, that is how trigger points function. They throw pain to a region in the body which will force us to change our movements, all simply to shield and rest the damaged muscle.

Trigger Points and Rest

However, a trigger point won’t just fade away if allowed to rest. Resting doesn’t turn the muscle’s ‘switch’ to off. Pressure needs to be applied to the trigger point to allow it to reset. And many trigger points actually flare in tandem – if one is active, there is probably a few in other related muscles which are on their way to flaring up. This is why your therapist may work a whole range of areas other than where you’re feeling pain – to stop that pain as all related trigger points need to be reset.

Trigger points are just another fascinating design feature of the human body. So next time your therapist seems to be working areas other than the site of your pain, why not ask them which trigger points they’re concerned about? The insights they give you into how to take care of your muscles just might surprise you…

About Our Massage Therapy News and Review Columistselfportrait_matthewnikitakis

Matthew Nikitakis is a massage therapist based in sunny Cairns QLD. With a passion for helping people to relax and recuperate that started in his teens, he now focuses on assisting people in high-stress jobs by providing in-office therapy in Queensland under his own brand, Matthew’s Corporate Massage.

Disclaimer: The information published in this column are based on the author’s own professional and personal knowledge, and opinion. This information and opinion is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment of any manner. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding any medical condition and consult a qualified medical professional before beginning any nutritional program or exercise program. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on InShape News.

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