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What is Trigger Point Massage Therapy?

If you have pain caused by active trigger points, trigger point massage therapy is a way to relieve the discomfort.

What Is a Trigger Point?

A trigger point is a tiny area of irritation in a stressed muscle. The irritated tissue refers pain, weakness, or numbness to other locations on your body. The point often feels like a taut band or hard nodule. 

For example, trigger points in your abdominal muscles can cause back pain. Trigger points in your trapezius (an upper back muscle) can cause headaches. Elbow pain can be caused by a trigger point in your shoulder, forearm muscles, or triceps. Trigger points in the quadriceps (upper leg muscles) can make your knees hurt.

If you have pain that's not being resolved by treating the location of the pain, looking for trigger points is a good idea.

Active trigger points are currently causing discomfort, while latent trigger points wait silently in the muscle for a future stress to activate them. 

Causes of trigger points include trauma, exposure to cold or infection, overuse, misalignment, or chronically tight muscles.

Charts are available that show referral areas for specific points.

Massage For Trigger Points

One way to get rid of trigger points is massage therapy using static compression. One technique massage therapists use is to apply pressure for 10 seconds – release – apply pressure for 10 more seconds in a pumping action while you breathe deeply. 

This technique isn't relaxing and requires you to tell your massage therapist about the pressure and intensity of pain and discomfort. You'll probably need more than one treatment to relieve chronic trigger points.

Trigger Point Massage Therapy Video

More Information

The definitive trigger point reference for healthcare practitioners is Travell & Simons' Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: The Trigger Point Manual.

A more accessible guide for most people is Trigger Point Therapy for Myofascial Pain: The Practice of Informed Touch.

You can also massage your own trigger points. A great reference is The Trigger Point Massage Workbook: Your Self-Treatment Guide for Pain Relief.

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Photo Credit: Ryan Hoyme