Chronic pain and mobility issues are difficult to live with. You may find it hard to work, enjoy your hobbies or perform everyday activities. Pain medication addresses symptoms, but it doesn’t treat the underlying problem. Many cases of chronic pain are caused by knots in the myofascial tissue known as trigger points. Trigger point release therapy, also called myofascial release, is a non-invasive therapy that can address muscle pain and stiffness at the source.
What Is a Trigger Point?
A trigger point is a tense or painful knot in the myofascial tissue that surrounds your muscles.
The prefix “myo-” means “muscle,” and “fascia” is derived from the Latin for “band.” Fasciae are the connective tissues that surround and connect your muscles, bones and organs. Myofascial tissues wrap around your muscles, protecting them while allowing them to move.
When knots develop in the myofascia, you may experience pain, stiffness or restricted movement in the affected area. A single trigger point may affect multiple parts of your body.
What Are the Causes and Symptoms?
Many factors lead to knots in the myofascia, including:
Injury and overuse
The most common symptoms associated with trigger points are muscle pain, stiffness and limited range of motion. Trigger points may be active, meaning they are constantly painful, or latent, meaning they are only painful when pressure is applied.
Trigger points can be difficult to diagnose for two reasons. The first is that you often feel the pain elsewhere in your body; this is called referred pain. For example, a stiff or painful elbow may be caused by a trigger point in your shoulder.
The second reason is that trigger points are not visible on x-rays and scans. Many people who suffer from chronic pain struggle to find solutions because diagnostic imaging doesn’t reveal anything and treating the painful body part provides only temporary relief.
How Does Trigger Point Therapy Work?
Myofascial release works by addressing the source of your pain, not just the part that hurts. Because myofascial pain is often referred pain, focusing treatment on the painful area does not fix the problem.
Trigger point therapy locates and releases knots of contracted myofascial fibers. This restores flexibility and addresses the pain at its source.
How Is the Therapy Performed?
A Gonstead chiropractor can perform the trigger point therapy, which is generally done in conjunction with a chiropractic adjustment, depending on the diagnosis.
The first step is to identify the trigger points. Normal myofascial tissue is flexible, so your chiropractor will feel for tight, rigid spots.
Next, your chiropractor will apply pressure to the trigger points. Each knot may require 30 seconds to a few minutes of sustained pressure to fully release. This therapy also stimulates blood flow to the area, which provides much-needed nutrients to the tissues.
Is Trigger Point Therapy Painful?
This type of therapy requires applying sustained pressure to sensitive and tense areas of tissue, so you may experience mild pain and discomfort during your session. It is important to communicate with your chiropractor about the sensations you feel during your treatment.
It is normal to feel sore after your session. However, this effect is temporary; once the soreness subsides, you should notice a reduction in pain and stiffness.
How Long Does It Take To See Results?
You should experience some pain relief and improved range of motion after your first session. For some patients, one treatment is sufficient. However, most require additional sessions to achieve the best possible results.
A typical course of treatment involves weekly or bi-weekly sessions over a four to twelve week period. Your chiropractor can help determine how many sessions you need.
What Are the Other Benefits?
In addition to pain relief, trigger point therapy can improve circulation. Your muscles and connective tissues receive oxygen, water and nutrients more efficiently, which helps them perform better, heal faster, and avoid future injuries. Myofascial release may also improve the functioning of the lymphatic system and strengthen immunity.
What Are the Risks?
For most people, trigger point therapy has very few risks. However, it is not appropriate for everyone. Trigger point therapy may not be right for you if you are taking blood-thinning medications or have any of the following conditions:
Deep vein thrombosis
Weak or broken bones
Overall, however, trigger point therapy is a safe, non-invasive option for people with chronic pain.
Living with chronic pain is frustrating, especially if you have tried many treatments without results. Trigger point therapy targets the cause of your chronic pain with gentle, non-invasive methods. Ask us if trigger point release therapy is appropriate for you. Call us at (561) 658-1180.
Also see: Everything You Need to Know About Trigger Point Therapy