“Rest when you are weary. Refresh and renew yourself, your body, your mind, your spirit. Then get back to work”.~ Ralph Marston
We have all experienced that nagging dull to sharp pain that just doesn’t seem to go away no matter what we do. Massage can be helpful but I have often found it does not have lasting results. What I have found to be powerful and long lasting is a specialized technique called Trigger Point Therapy. While not always comfortable this technique is effective and the results speak for themselves.
What is a Trigger Point?
A trigger point is a dysfunctional band of muscle tissue that inhibits the proper functioning of the muscle it is a part of. Trigger points are formed by dehydration, stress, poor posture, improper body mechanics, or repetitive motion. These dysfunctional bands of tissue cause local nerve cell bundles (known as nerve ganglion) to send pain signals called nociceptors to the spinal cord and brain. These nociceptors in turn inhibit muscle function and cause a lack of blood flow and oxygen to the effected tissue. This nervous system response locks the muscle into a detrimental cycle that is difficult to change. These troublesome areas refer pain to other parts of the body and can create physiological dysfunctions such as severe headaches and digestive problems.
What is Trigger Point Therapy?
Trigger point therapy is a modality that focuses on detecting and releasing taut or contracted muscles which are called Trigger Points. By treating trigger points the therapist is able to stop pain signaling, restore blood and oxygen flow to the area, and restore proper muscle function. There are different forms of trigger point therapy including massage based techniques and needle based techniques such as Dry Needling.
Dry Needling involves the insertion of a thin filament needle into the affected area. This often causes a fasciculation otherwise known as the twitch response. This response is a sudden contraction and release of the affected muscle. This response reestablishes communication between the muscle and brain and causes the dysfunctional tissue to return to its proper resting length tension relationship.
Some conditions that can benefit from Trigger Point Therapy?
• Muscular tightness
• Back and neck pain
• Sports Injuries
• Carpal Tunnel
An experienced practitioner can treat any location on the body utilizing Trigger Point Therapy with great success.
Trigger Point Therapy versus Traditional Acupuncture
Dry needling is a common form of trigger point therapy in which a needle is inserted into the trigger points. Dry needling is specific to musculoskeletal problems, whereas traditional acupuncture is used to stimulate specific points along energetic pathways of the body to establish proper homeostasis and calm the nervous system. Acupuncture can also treat a wide range of health conditions while trigger point therapy is a very localized treatment.
Benefits of Trigger Point Therapy
Most patients respond immediately to dry needling and feel instant relief as pain signals are reset and problem muscles become lengthened. Releasing these contracted tissues allow for an immediate increase in range of motion. You can expect to be slightly sore or stiff for 1-2 days after treatment due to a stretch response in the muscles from being lengthened. Since trigger points are often located under deep layers of muscles it can take several sessions to regain full functionality of the muscles.
Whether you are having acute or chronic pain hindering your mobility, dry needling is an effective approach to help you get back in the game. It is definitely my preferred method of treating most muscle issues.
By Bradley Mascuch L.Ac. CPT