Pain, Let It Go!: Trigger Point Massage: Tools to Help Muscles Relax

Guess how many muscles in each of us (at least partially) do hard work day in, day out.

Pain, Let It Go!: Trigger Point Massage: Tools to Help Muscles Relax

Guess how many muscles in each of us (at least partially) do hard work day in, day out...? There are more than 500. And trigger points can appear in almost every one of them, from the shoulder to the calf. They are superfluous like a goiter, but can be really painful. Millions of Germans grapple with it every day. Physiotherapists usually take care of the pain, which often occurs in the shoulder and neck area, but also in the back and the piriformis (muscle on the inside of the pelvis under the buttocks). Do you want to save yourself the trip to the doctor or to a physiotherapy practice?

In the following article we provide basic knowledge about trigger points and trigger point massage. An experienced physiotherapist reveals which trigger points you can treat yourself at home, what you should pay attention to and which tools can help with do-it-yourself pain therapy.

Trigger points are painful hardenings in the muscles, tendons, ligaments, periosteum or connective tissue that can radiate to other parts of the body. Physiotherapists and physicians refer to the most common trigger points in the muscles as myofascial trigger points or myogelosis. A distinction is made between trigger points, which cause pain during sport but also at rest, and those that only hurt when pressure is applied to the corresponding area.

In the case of trigger points that have their origins in sports or the often one-sided physical strain, for example in the home office, permanent cramping leads to a reduction in movement and blood circulation in a part of the muscle. The result: the muscle cannot relax on its own. And the pain points are there. Delayed muscle soreness or another muscle injury can also be the cause of trigger points. Exactly when the connective tissue that envelops muscle cords and muscle fibers (the fascia) loses its mobility due to structural changes. One more reason to "pamper" possibly stuck fascia with a fascia roller after training.

The most common therapy for trigger points is trigger point massage. There is a very simple idea behind it. Relieving the muscles causing the pain so that they relax. This is achieved either by applying pressure to the pain point, by applying pressure in the longitudinal direction of the muscle, or by applying pressure across the course of the muscle. You don't necessarily need professional support for this. In principle, you can also treat trigger points yourself, says Kristina Jago, physiotherapist and Master of Science in clinical sports physiology and sports therapy. However, this does not apply to every region of the body. "If the problem is between the shoulder blades, for example, it becomes rather difficult without help," says Jago.

And here the question arises:

How do you actually find the trigger points?

Kristina Jago: "From my experience as a physiotherapist, I can say that people with good body awareness usually know exactly where in a muscle the tension is. My tip for everyone else: cut out three small dots from colored adhesive tape and stick them on the areas where you feel the most pain. You'll find that you're thinking about the pain differently than when you're just talking about a sore shoulder or butt. Important: This trick works only for painful muscle points, not for other sports injuries. If you can feel a hardening in the muscle at the pain points with the tape attached, you have found the pain point. If pressure on the pain point does not bring any relief, you can also feel the muscle lengthwise to remove the to find the source of pain."

1. Trigger point-Stab

A tool that has been used in physiotherapy for trigger point massage for many years is the trigger point stick. The device has now been revised and is very well suited to treating trigger points in the shoulder blade, spine or calf area. The way it works is based on a simple lever principle. The stick is attached to the shoulder blade. Then you build up the pressure with your hand or elbow in front of your chest, which should reach the trigger point. According to the manufacturer, other trigger points, for example on the foot, can also be treated with the massage stick. The tool is equipped with several massage nubs and is intended to simulate a thumb and elbow massage. The massage stick from High Pulse is available here.

2. Trigger point cone

A tool that Kristina Jago recommends especially for treating trigger points in the back muscles, the shoulder or under the foot. "These cones are particularly effective when you lie on them with your upper back while making small head nods or swinging your equilateral arm. This exercise is also comfortable with a cone on each side. Try that for a start first lie out in bed or place a towel between the cones and your back. This is much more pleasant to get started than starting directly on the exercise mat. Here are the trigger point cones in a double pack

3. Triggerstab

With the simple sticks made of wood or plastic, self-treatment away from the upper neck muscles as well as the calf and arm muscles is rather difficult. Jago therefore recommends finding a partner who treats the trigger points in the back muscles, for example in the upper area between the shoulder blade and the spine. At the same time, the "patient" swings one arm up and down. "This is how the muscle moves, is alternately tensed and relaxed and at the same time the pressure of the rod causes a slight transverse stretching of the muscle," explains the physiotherapist. With the chopstick, you can also stretch the muscle across, i.e. out of the way. Jago recommends the wooden variant. "Wood is warmer and grips better." It is important that you can disinfect the staffs well. Here's a trigger point massage wood

4. Fascia Ball

A classic that is mainly known from the field of fascia training. But you can also massage trigger points with the small balls made of cork, which are available in different sizes. Here, too, the combination of targeted pressure and the rolling movement, which stretches the muscle lengthwise and crosswise, has a relaxing effect on the painful hardening. It only gets tricky in the area of ​​the shoulder blades without assistance. The problem: If you are standing against the wall with the massage ball behind you, it is difficult to control and maintain the correct position while moving. Here's a cork massage ball.

Trigger point massage and fascia therapy differ significantly in two respects. It is crucial that trigger point massages are aimed solely at relaxing the muscles and dissolving the pain points. Basically, it's about actively letting go of the muscles. On the other hand, you can and should definitely work up a sweat during fascia training. In therapy with the rollers and balls, you usually have to become active yourself. In addition, you can achieve significantly better longitudinal stretching of the muscle strands with fascia rollers than with the punctual trigger point tools. But the lateral stretching of the muscles with the rollers is almost impossible.

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