Exercise Rx: Help For Muscle Trigger Points

Wednesday, September 27, 2006 - 9:23am

By Michele Silence, MA

Just about everyone who exercises regularly suffers occasionally from various body aches and pains. Most ailments come and go. Others seem to pop up way too much. What most people don’t know is that many of these aches and pains can be alleviated once the cause is found. And, they often result from knotted muscles that cause extreme pain.

If the problem feels more like a muscle issue than a joint, it probably is. Trigger points, as they are more often referred to, can cause tremendous pain and take an incredibly long period of time to relieve themselves. These sensitive areas can bring a grown man to his knees. The fact is, trigger points can exist for years if not properly treated, leading to unnecessary chronic pain and suffering.

Identify your trigger points

The good news: Trigger points are easily treated. By you. You don’t need a specialist or costly equipment. Just a knowledge of what trigger points create pain in other areas of the body. An excellent book on the topic is TheTrigger point Therapy Workbook.

If you get a chance to read this great self-help book you’ll find you can rid yourself of a great deal of stiffness, pain, and frustration. And, you’ll be able to move and exercise more easily and comfortably. You’ll learn where the most common trigger points are for problematic areas of the body. Remember, a pain in the arm may be coming from a trigger point in the back or neck. Treating the arm is not going to get rid of the pain or the cause.

How to treat your trigger points

The idea is to squeeze, roll, probe or otherwise manipulate the affected knot until the pain lessens. For example, you feel like you’ve torn the Achilles muscle, located at the base of your ankle at the back of the foot. The pain is horrendous and you’re not sure what to do. Probing around a little can help you find the true cause if it’s a muscular pull. By taking a rolling pin and rolling over the calve, you may feel a few bumps that cause a lot of pain. Interestingly, these bumps are not located near the painful area you’re trying to help. Still, these knots and lumps may actually be the true root causing referred pain. Massaging them away will alleviate the chronic Achilles condition and get rid of the discomfort.

Is it a muscle spasm or a tear?

All right, so how can you tell the difference between a muscle in spasm or a more serious strain or tear? Look for inflammation. If you feel or see the area inflamed, it’s a sign of trauma. The body produces swelling as a way to cushion itself and protect from further damage. Swelling reduces the ability to move freely and prevents the area from healing. If you feel swelling is the culprit, follow the RICE procedure. Rest the area, Ice it, Compress and Elevate. If you still have pain or aren’t sure, consult your physician.