What is a trigger point?
A trigger point is a hyper-irritable spot or nodule within a muscle. There are many types of trigger points, but no matter what kind of trigger point it is, trigger points result in dysfunction of the muscle. Dysfunction happens because trigger points are associated with a physiopathological reflex arc. (Don’t worry; there won’t be a test.)
The physiopathological reflex arc is a perpetuated cycle of neurological dysfunction. That means that a trigger point is more than just a knot; it’s indicative of physiological dysfunction of that muscle or muscle group. It’s a circuit of neurological dysfunction where there’s stress in that muscle, which sends impulses to the brain to increase nervous activity, which sends more impulses to the muscle, which isn’t functioning correctly, so it sends more signals to the brain that it has to work harder, which sends more signals to the muscle to work harder, and it keeps going in this never-ending cycle until the muscle is so fatigued, that it can’t do it anymore.
How can I tell if I have trigger points?
This kind of dysfunction can present in a myriad of ways, including: hypersensitivity in the skin or referred areas, increased pressure in joints, decreased activity in organs, decreased blood flow to areas, and development of other trigger points within the muscle. Muscles that have trigger points are likely to fatigue much quicker than muscles without trigger points. They also will have restricted strength, endurance, and flexibility. They may also present in numbness, tingling, twitching, aching, or referral pain.
So, how does a trigger point develop?
Because of the complexity of what specifically a trigger point is, you might think it’s difficult to develop trigger points. However, your body will develop trigger points to try and protect you or compensate for injuries, no matter how minor the injury may be.
Overload of a muscle, trauma, arthritic conditions, disease, and emotional distress can disrupt the nervous system in such a way that can cause the body to overextend itself, resulting in that physiopathological reflex arc. Repetitive motions cause trigger point development. Spraining your ankle, or any injury that causes acute, intense pain can cause trigger points. Being a grocery hero and carrying all 30 bags of groceries into the house in one trip can overload your muscles, causing trigger points.
Think about it: you’re sitting at the computer all day, every day. You’re constantly having your brain tell your arms, wrists, and hands to type and mouse on the computer. You’re constantly sending signals to these muscles, without stretching them regularly, contracting them fully, or giving them rest. You’re constantly working on that neurological cycle of function, which can create dysfunction.
Trigger points are much more common than you might think, which is why each Licensed Massage Therapist at Under Pressure Therapeutics is trained in Trigger Point Therapy.
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