Treating Trigger Points & Myofascial Pain Syndrome

January 6, 2015

Most people have heard about trigger points, but nobody really knows what it means.

In common language a trigger point is a “knot” in the muscle, which triggers pain locally and/or on a different area of the body. It can also limit joint movements.

In recent years, scientific research has shown that the muscular system is often the source of pain in the body.

Myofascial pain syndrome (MPS) is one of the most common overlooked diagnoses in patients with chronic pain. Up to 85% of all patients with chronic pain have an underlying MPS. The hallmark of MPS are myofascial trigger points.

How do I get a trigger point?

The cause for trigger points is very common and occurs frequently in our modern society:

➢ Poor posture

➢ Overuse in sports

➢ Stress at work or home

➢ Repetitive movements (eg. use of computer mouse)

Muscles are constantly working too hard and/or long, thus creating tight spots, which develop into trigger points.

How do I know that I have a trigger point?

See below for common statements from my patients when they first see me:

• “I have had pain in my neck and back towards the end of my working day for many months. I tried regular massages many times, but they never really helped. At first my pain is better, but it returns again very soon”

• “I’ve been training very hard for the past 4 weeks for the upcoming 10k run. Suddenly I felt pain in my calf after a run and it isn’t disappearing anymore. I tried a regular massage, but it doesn’t help”

Persistent and sharp burning pain that may even radiate to other spots in the body are well known symptoms of trigger points.

Is there any treatment for trigger points?

Yes, there is! Even after years of having pain from trigger points, there is a way out.

There are two common and well proven treatment techniques:

1. Manual therapy
The manual technique is the treatment of muscles and connective tissues with specific hands on techniques.

2. Dry needling

A sterile acupuncture needle is used to improve the local circulation and interrupt the referred pain.

However, the success also depends on your contribution. The therapist treats the body parts that provoke the heaviest pain. If the pain is too much for you, you may interrupt the treatment at any point by simply saying “stop”. Therapy is teamwork between patient and therapist to get the best and fastest result. After a trigger point therapy you should stretch all your treated muscles 2 or 3 times a day for 30 seconds. Heat can also reduce the post treatment soreness.

Other methods include exercises and modalities such as heat, electrotherapy, laser, shockwave and ultrasound.

How can I prevent recurrent trigger points?

Trigger point therapy can eliminate the trigger points and with it the pain, but one important aspect is often forgotten: the cause of the problem.

If you continue sitting in a poor position in front of your computer or you keep running with a poor technique, the trigger points are likely to come back and it will be a never-ending- cycle. Your physiotherapist will give you instructions on what to do to prevent this from happening.

A few other simple tips to keep your muscles in good shape:

➢ Relaxation (enough rest, warm pack, hot shower, Jacuzzi)

➢ Stretching on regular basis

➢ Rolling on a massage roll

Thanks for reading!

If you’re suffering from muscle pain or trigger points, please click to find out more about the available physiotherapy treatments. Alternatively, get in touch with your local PhysioActive clinic to arrange an appointment.

This post has been written by PhysioActive physiotherapist Brigitte Lichtenberger B.Sc. - Physiotherapist, Manual Therapist, Footreflexolgist.

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