What Are Trigger Points? Trigger points are a major source of musculoskeletal dysfunction and pain. They feel like nodules or long, rope-like bands within the muscle. We can use the analogy of a rope to explain how trigger points cause pain. Like a muscle, a rope is made of fibers twisted together. When you tie a knot in the rope, it becomes shorter and tighter and the fibers become more twisted. Similarly, the "knots" or trigger points in muscles shorten and tighten the muscle, stretching tendons and ligaments abnormally and reducing blood circulation in the muscle. When the muscle is tight, it lacks oxygen and the body releases chemicals that "trigger" pain. Your body may become fatigued more quickly because it has to use more energy to move the tightened muscle.
Release of the trigger points is done by untying the "knots" so that the muscle can fully lengthen. Studies show that using pressure on myofascial (muscle) tight spots, then following up with a natural rotation, releases the muscle. This process results in increased oxygenated blood flow with a corresponding reduction in toxins and pain.
The pain experienced from trigger points can be referred to another area. For example, you may feel pain in your hand, though the trigger point may actually be near your elbow. If you want to learn more about pain referral due to trigger points, see the reference listing in the back of this booklet.
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