Trigger Point Therapy

Posted by on Feb 1, 2011 in Health Tips/Information | Comments Off on Trigger Point Therapy

Santa Barbara Chiropractor James NearyWhen muscle tissue has been injured or damaged, movement may be uncomfortable. Muscles may even be sensitive to touch or pressure. As the tissue works to heal itself, inflammation that occurs in the neuromuscular junction (the area of tissue where nerves and muscle fibers meet) can make the muscle sensitive and irritable.
The muscle fibers respond to the irritation by twisting and contracting, which feels like a hard lump that may hurt to touch. This lump is called a trigger point. As the name implies, pressing on the lump triggers pain either directly on the location touched or somewhere else. As anyone who has lived with trigger points knows, they can be a source of constant discomfort. Trigger point therapy used in conjunction with chiropractic adjustment of the spine and extremities is the best way to get relief from the discomfort these points cause.

There are four grades of trigger points, two active and two latent.

  1. Grade 1: Pain in the area of the trigger point is relatively constant. (active)
  2. Grade 2: Pain is noticed with movement or with slight pressure. (active)
  3. Grade 3: Pain of the trigger point is not noticed until pressure is applied. (latent)
  4. Grade 4: Lump can be felt with pressure, but does not cause pain. (latent)

Treatment of trigger points can be painful. The pain can be lessened by knowing what to expect:

  1. As pressure is applied to the trigger point, a sharp or burning pain may be felt directly in the area or referred to another location (i.e. down the back or the arm).
  2. The “jump sign” may be noticed along with a muscle twitch. This is evidence of the trigger point’s existence.
  3. Static or slight circular pressure is applied for 30-60 seconds. During this time, the burning or sharp pain may begin to intensify and then dissipate. It is important to remember to keep breathing deeply, focusing on keeping the muscles relaxed.
  4. If the muscles are kept tense to compete with the treatment, the pain may be intensified and the therapy may be less beneficial.

There are several methods of treating trigger points.

  1. Spray and stretch: direct pressure/massage for 30-60 seconds, repeated several times followed by stretching of the area. After the stretching, a vapo-coolant spray is applied to the treated area. Stretching is repeated to educate the muscle within its new range of motion.
  2. Ultrasound: Sound waves are passed through a special device into the muscle tissue in order to bring blood into the tissue and help it relax. Coupling gel is used to facilitate the transfer of energy. (See ‘Ultrasound’ sheet)
  3. Muscle Stimulation: The muscle tissue is stimulated using a small electrical current conducted via electro-conductive pads. Stimulation causes the muscle to contract as it does in exercise, pumping blood in and out. The muscle becomes tired and blood flow is increased causing the trigger point to relax. (See ‘Muscle Stimulation’ sheet)
  4. Sound Stimulation Combo:  Ultrasound and muscle stimulation are used in combination to aggressively treat trigger points.

If you would like more information or find out if you have trigger points, contact one of our offices today.

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