Massage Therapy for Trigger Points

152 - What is Trigger Point Massage TherapyMany, if not most of us, walk around on a daily basis experiencing some areas of sharp tenderness or irritation – “knots”- in our muscles. (Think top of your shoulders or between your shoulder blades). If persistent, some of these spots may become trigger points, and may lead to pain of varying degrees. True trigger points are characterized by tender points which refer sensations – pain, heat, cooling numbing or tingling – to other areas in addition to the initial area of pain.

Trigger point massage therapy is a specialized protocol in which direct pressure and other forms manual manipulation are applied  very specifically to these trigger points. Palpating and/or compressing these trigger points causes contracted muscle fibers to relax, helping to eliminate the both the original and associated myofascial pain, and other problems associated with chronic muscle tension. To learn more about trigger point massage therapy and the unique benefits it offers, keep reading.

The Origins of Trigger Point Massage

While massage therapy has been used for thousands of years to treat and prevent various conditions, trigger point massage is a relatively new practice.  Dr. Janet Travell, former physician for President Kennedy, is credited with identifying and mapping, in the early 1940s, the referral patterns of trigger points. Dr. Travell went on to publish a report in which she described trigger points as having the following characteristics:

  1. Pain related to an irritable point in the muscle.
  2. The pain can be felt as nodule or knot within the muscle.
  3. Palpation of the trigger point reproduces the original pain pattern.
  4. Pain and/or other neurological sensations may be “triggered” – referred to other areas of the body.
  5. Neurological examinations are unable to identify the pain.

How Trigger Point Massage Therapy Works

There are literally hundreds of different trigger points throughout the body. When a client seeks trigger point massage therapy, the therapist will first talk with the client to determine where they are having pain and if they are experiencing other symptoms. She may refer to charts which depict common trigger points related to particular pain patterns. Using this information, the therapist can identify and treat those trigger points which are likely causing or contributing to the client’s pain.

Trigger point massage therapy works by releasing specifically irritated areas in overly contracted muscles or groups of muscles, and the generalized muscle tension that goes with it. Normally, when our muscles are maintained at optimal tone, they return to their naturally relaxed state after usual activities including exercise. However, when muscles are chronically constricted and thus shortened, a variety of health problems may ensue. For example, if muscles in your neck remain excessively contracted, back pain, headaches, or even migraines may result.The tension restricts the flow of blood to local tissues, which adversely affects the body’s musculo-skeletal system. Trigger point massage targets these tense muscles, releasing the overload and causing them to relax.

Benefits of Trigger Point Massage Therapy:

  • Proven method for relieving muscle aches and pains.
  • Protects muscles from overuse injuries.
    • Can be performed with or without the assistance of a professional massage therapist – (self trigger point massage therapy).
  • Can be performed in short sessions lasting just 30 minutes.


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