As you might already noticed, I'm giving online Trigger Point Therapy classes on Airbnb Online Experiences and as part of other private and public online events.
In this article I've addressed 8 FAQ about trigger point therapy, that I frequently get asked when teaching people how to apply its techniques on themselves as a self-help method during these challenging times:
#1 What are trigger points?
#2 What is trigger point therapy and why it is so important?
#3 Why do I feel tired, sleepy & sore after the therapy?
#4 How long does it take to release a trigger point?
#5 Can I apply the trigger point therapy on myself?
#6 Can I hurt myself?
#7 Where can I learn trigger point therapy techniques?
#8 What equipment do I need?
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This is a non-sponsored content. I share this list in a pure good will with purpose to help others.
The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
#1 WHAT ARE TRIGGER POINTS?
Simply put, myofascial trigger points are contracted muscle knots. They are formed as a result of trauma to the muscle tissue and the connective tissue around it that can be caused by overusing your muscles in repetitive movements and improper recovery. They can also be caused by direct injury (e.g. car accident, sports injury), heavy lifting and carrying heavy objects, infection, illness, prolonged inactivity, vitamin and mineral deficiency, non-restorative sleep, imbalanced body part length or size, too much physical and emotional stress, and not enough of tension release and recovery. Trigger points are a common cause of pain and tightness in different parts of the body.
Trigger points are painful on compression, giving rise to characteristic referred pain and tenderness. To translate, trigger point is a "grumpy little spot" in a taut band of muscle tissue that hurts when you press on it. Referred pain means that a trigger point in one muscle can create pain in another area. A trigger point and its associated taut band are a contracture of only a small area within the muscle, that feels like a cord or small cable. A taut band can be the most troublesome part of the problem because it restricts range of motion by limiting the muscle's ability to lengthen.
Doctors often diagnose patients with chronic muscle and joint pain with Myofascial Pain Syndrome or Chronic Myofascial Pain. That simply means that the symptoms are cause by many trigger points throughout the body. Some conditions might even be mistaken with or caused by trigger points like Arthritis, which is extremely common. Unfortunately, not many doctors are familiar with this topic and how it is related with the body part they specialize in. In fact, in many cases the cause can be effectively treated and managed by simply eliminating trigger points causing them, and working with the muscle attached to the problematic area. Sadly, people are often treating the symptoms with prescription pills, pain killers, and even surgery, that are usually suggested by doctors. Obviously, that does not treat the cause, but simply numbs the symptoms.
But not only trigger points are trouble makers. Muscle tension build-up in general causes many issues in the body, like joint pain, discomfort, deformation as the body is an extremely smart entity that compensates any imbalance by pulling on muscles. And this is where trigger point therapy comes in handy!
#2 WHAT IS TRIGGER POINT THERAPY AND WHY IT IS SO IMPORTANT?
Trigger Point Therapy is an alternative to acupuncture, dry needling, myofascial release and chiropractor therapy. It releases muscle knots and tension in different parts of the body, starting from eyes & jaw, down to feet, ankles & toes, and is useful for treating skeletal muscle immobility and pain. It relaxes contracted muscles, improves blood, oxygen, and lymphatic circulation, and stimulates the stretch reflex in muscles.
Trigger Point Therapy involves applying pressure with a finger or massage tool to the trigger point in a certain muscle, and increasing the pressure as the trigger point "releases" and softens. Once the trigger points are released the muscle needs to be stretched and moved throughout its full range of motion.
What's unique about trigger point therapy is that you can apply it for pain that you’ve had for years. It is a wonderful tool for symptoms like:
Muscle & different joint pain (the most common areas are neck, shoulders, rotator cuff, upper back, lower back, hips, wrists, knees and ankles)
Jaw pain and stiffness
Headaches & Migraines
Red & tired eyes
Carpal tunnel syndrome
"Sciatic" pain (buttock and leg pain)
Disc pain (bulge/rupture/herniation) and radiculopathy
and much more...
An extremely important reason to apply trigger point therapy is that "You cannot strengthen a muscle that has a trigger point, because the muscle is already physiologically contracted. Too many physical therapists see a weakened muscle and immediately attempt to strengthen it without testing for the presence of trigger points. Attempts at strengthening a muscle with trigger points will only cause the trigger points to worsen..." (Devin Starlanyl, MD).
#3 WHY DO I FEEL TIRED, SLEEPY & SORE AFTER THE THERAPY?
There are several reasons for this, but note that many patients feel the opposite effect - increase in energy and power in the respective muscle.
It is common for patients to experience some soreness. When doing myofascial trigger point therapy, you're working with muscle tension that is stored in different parts of your body. This could involve lactic acid release that is responsible for the sore feeling you get after a good workout the next day or two.
You may experience fatigue as the chronically held musculature is allowed to relax and return to a normal tone. Trigger point therapy helps to switch “off” the sympathetic nervous system and switch “on” the parasympathetic nervous system. Sympathetic nervous system is responsible for the "fight or flight" reaction when responding to stressful situations, whereas the parasympathetic is responsible for slowing down your heart rate, calming down your mind, and recovering the body and mind. This also explains the sleepiness, as you simply might feel more relaxed.
When the muscles are massaged, the blood and lymph circulation is increased, moving vital nutrients and oxygen throughout the body, organs and muscles. If you have too much lymph in your body, it can build up in the tissues under the skin's surface — the same tissues that are manipulated during a massage. It would make sense, then, that a deep-tissue rubdown would cause your body to suddenly be flooded with those toxins in your lymph, making you suddenly feel unpleasant. This is why it’s recommended to drink plenty of water to make sure you flush those released toxins out of your body.
#4 HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO RELEASE A TRIGGER POINT?
Most people feel the effect of the trigger point release straight away, and most severe problems can be eliminated within 4 to 14 days, depending on each individual and how severe is the issue.
If not overworked, the area can heal properly very quickly. In more severe cases it may take up from 1 month to couple of months to properly align the body in the state it is meant to be.
Your recovery time also depends on factors including but not limited to:
Type of injury and length of time since it occurred
Overall physical health and level of fitness
Underlying skeletal abnormalities
Nutrition (vitamin and mineral deficiencies, poor diet etc.)
Quality of sleep
Depression or anxiety
Patient compliance with self-care
Other medical conditions (i.e. allergies, diabetes, thyroid dysfunction, etc.)
#5 CAN I APPLY THE TRIGGER POINT THERAPY ON MYSELF?
Yes, and I strongly recommend to do it daily once you learn the proper techniques. While there are options to see certified myofascial trigger point therapists, it can also be safely and successfully self-applied with or without assistance from your family members of friends.
#6 CAN I HURT MYSELF?
As it is the same with everything, not if you overdo it. Don't go overboard and don't rush or force it. Even though working with trigger points is quite a painful process, always stay tuned with your own body and never ignore the signals and signs from it.
Plus, some trigger points might even hurt that much, that you must be a sadist to push it too hard. When you hit a very sensitive and tight trigger point, you'll have to push yourself and fight the instinct to preserve yourself, so it's very unlikely that you press on the trigger point too hard and hurt yourself.
I recommend spending around 30 seconds to 1 minute per trigger point. It's enough time to release, and not enough time to overdo it.
#7 WHERE CAN I LEARN TRIGGER POINT THERAPY TECHNIQUES?
Since trigger point therapy is still largely unknown to the general public, there are not many educational options yet. It is always better to have a mentor or guru in different fields. This is true with trigger point therapy as well.
Luckily, you now have the opportunity to learn the trigger point release techniques from me - an experienced practitioner who applies trigger point therapy on daily basis as a crucial part of my strenuous workout recovery. And better yet - you have the chance to do it online, through Airbnb Online Experiences. Simply book any available time or send me an inquiry on a different time HERE, if any of the available ones don't fit your schedule. I try to be as flexible as possible to reach and help as many people as possible. I also offer private sessions for up to 30 people, in case you wish to book a session for your family, friends or colleagues as part of team building activities.
In my trigger point therapy sessions you can expect to:
Learn self-treatment techniques for your specific needs, as I tailor each session to my guests' needs. So rest assured that you will get the answers you are looking for.
Learn appropriate exercises/movements/stretches for optimum muscle mobility and flexibility.
Receive images of trigger points we worked with after the session, so you can repeat the treatment at home.
Receive an extensive blood work sheet that shows all the markers that need to be monitored to prevent vitamin and mineral deficiency that is one of the causes for trigger points.
Of course, there are also several self-treatment workbooks that guide you through the techniques for and effective pain relief at home. I personally use The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook (Third Edition) by Clair Davies & Amber Davies for my daily recovery needs. Other great versions are The Concise Book of Trigger Points, Third Edition: A Professional and Self-Help Manual by Simeon Niel-Asher, and the new Travell, Simons & Simons' Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: The Trigger Point Manual 3rd Edition.
#8 WHAT EQUIPMENT DO I NEED?
A lot can be done with your hands, fingers and elbows. But the investment to get the necessary equipment is minimal, as you need only few tools to self-apply the trigger point therapy at home. Of course, you can always choose the most expensive options, but I find it unnecessary as there are many household item alternatives.
Here is a list of the equipment and my recommendations:
Different sized therapy balls. The smaller and harder the ball, the more hurtful the massage. For bigger surface area and more sensitive trigger points I use the TuneUpFitness Alpha Ball. To get deeper into the muscle, I recommend a tennis ball size lacrose ball like these from ZinFit, or these sustainable and good looking cork ones from Rawlogy. A great alternative is tennis ball, softball or some people even use a rubber ball from a pet store.
A muscle roller stick is a hand tool to have for areas like shins, calfs and quads, which is a great alternative for foam roller. I use this from Tiger Tail. If you ask me, I don't really like the ones with much texture on them.
This Self-massage Hook/Cane is an absolutely amazing tool for reaching tricky areas like shoulder plates, if you have a limited shoulder mobility, and it gets really deep into the muscle tissue as well really hitting the spot. As an alternative for hard-to-reach spots on your back, I recommend putting your therapy ball in a long sock so you can adjust the hight of the ball by holding the other end of the sock.
Davies, C., Davies, A. The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook. Third Edition. Your Self-treatment Guide For Pain Relief.
Nacional Association of Myofascial Trigger Point Therapists. Myofascial Trigger Point Therapy - What Is It? (https://namtpt.wildapricot.org/MTPT_What_is_it)