What Is Trigger Point Therapy?
The discipline of Trigger Point Therapy for pain relief and improved range of motion was codified by Dr. Janet Travell. She literally coined the word “trigger point” in 1947. She worked to rehabilitate John F. Kennedy on his way to the White House. Later, she became the personal physician of Presidents Kennedy and Johnson. So, in a way, this is old news. However, her work was widely ignored by the medical established for decades. Meanwhile, many other dedicated physicians, researchers and body workers have contributed to the understanding of the field, which continues to evolve.
The basic notion is that quite a lot of chronic musculoskeletal pain is caused by myofascial trigger points. These represent a local inflammation in the muscle, restrict its range of motion and inhibit its strength.
What Is A Trigger Point?
A trigger point is an area of the body, hyper-sensitive to touch, that can cause pain elsewhere in the body and restricts range of motion prohibiting normal function. We call this “referred pain”. A qualified Trigger Point Therapist is well-trained to understand how pain refers from one area to another. In fact, this training is almost unique to Trigger Point Therapy. Decades of scientific research has determined where specific trigger points refer pain. Combining this knowledge with a physical exam allows a Trigger Point Therapist to confirm the referral pattern.
Therefore, Trigger Point Therapy is one of the primary methods for treating Myofascial Dysfunction. “Myosfacia” refers to muscles, fascia, ligaments, tendons and other connective tissues. It does not require drugs, surgery or other invasive techniques.
Trigger Point Pressure Release
One of the many proven techniques for treating Trigger Points is the use of manual compression. This might appear to be similar to deep tissue massage. However, a Trigger Point therapist is trained to assess the overall muscular health of their patient and identify myofascial pain and dysfunction. Then we can precisely locate and treat the associated Trigger Points with focused manual pressure. This is not a spa massage!
Some therapists use an outmoded technique known as “ischemic compression”. It uses deep, sustained pressure that cause significant pain and bruising. Instead, we utilize a technique known as Trigger Point Pressure Release. This is less vigorous, is more effective and is not likely to produce significant additional irritation or soreness. We tailor our approach to the needs of the individual’s muscles. This is more patient friendly and your are more likely to use it at home for self-care. Patients learn what optimal pressure feels like for subsequent self-treatment.
The therapist lengthens the muscle to the point of resistance within the comfort zone. Then, she applies gentle, gradually increasing pressure on the trigger point until encountering a definite increase in resistance. At that point there may be a degree of discomfort but no significant pain. We maintain pressure until tension reduces. Then we repeat the process until the trigger point is released and the muscle regains its normal length.
Other Approaches to Releasing Trigger Points
Trigger Point Therapy can involve the use of various other techniques including active contract/relax and post-isometric relaxation, use of cold and heat and specialized stretches. More recently, we have pioneered the use in the US of advanced medical devices such as the WellWave, which delivers pulses of sound waves to provide “Acoustic Compression” as an alternative to manual compression techniques. It is an extremely effective, leading edge technology for the reduction of pain from Trigger Points.