The muscle is considered as the largest organ. With over 400 muscles in the body, it accounts for about 30 to 40 percent of the average person’s body mass. Any one of these muscles can unfortunately develop trigger points that cause varying levels of pain and mobility issues.
A trigger point is a type of stiffness in the muscles and tissues that sends “referred” pain to another distant area of the body. When pressed, it feels like a knot or a tight band in the muscle the size of a mustard seed. Since the muscle affected is already contracted, you will only have a limited range of use for it. Unreleased, this prolonged contraction is what’s causing the pain, and may even lead to permanent or irreversible injury if not treated promptly.
While your physio can give you plenty of options for treatment, the best approach to trigger point pain is prevention. Knowing just how these trigger points are commonly formed can help you avoid experiencing debilitating pain in the future. Here are some of the known causes of trigger points.
Muscle Trauma from Injuries
Trauma of any kind can cause significant harm to the body. Slip and fall accidents, car collisions or sports injuries are just some types of muscle trauma that can trigger a trigger point. It’s good practice therefore to always seek medical attention immediately after suffering blows, strains, breaks, twists, or tears that result from such events.
After an incident, you may feel lingering pain and limited mobility in the knee or ankle. This doesn’t always mean that the cause of the injury lies in those areas. A trigger point may have developed in the quadriceps and calf muscles. You might also experience pain in the lower back region, only to find out that the trigger point is located in the gluteus medius and gluteus maximus.
Repetitive Motions or Overuse
People who perform certain actions day in and day out at work are at high risk of developing trigger points. Repetitive motions such as typing on a keyboard and using handheld power tools often cause overuse injuries.
Trigger points may manifest as stiffness or pain in the shoulder, neck area or upper back area. Upper limb pain is almost always referred from trigger points somewhere farther along the arm or even under the arm, and the pectoral muscles. Pain felt in the shoulder area could be mistaken as tendonitis or bursitis due to the similarities in the symptoms that are presented. Trigger points for these are sometimes found on the upper back or the back of the neck.
Mental and Emotional Stress
It may come as a surprise to some, but being in mental or emotional distress can affect the human body in a physical way as well. You may not even be aware that your muscles are habitually clenching and tensing up. These actions are often subtle, but they put the facial and neck muscles under a lot of stress.
You could experience sore throat or even feel a lump in the throat because of this. Trigger points for these conditions can be found anywhere around the throat. Sometimes, the signs of trigger points appear under the guise of chronic jaw pain, earaches, tinnitus, dizziness, sinusitis or toothaches. It’s most likely that there are trigger points along the jaw, face, head or neck areas.
These are only some of the so-called “triggers” of trigger points. As a physiotherapist might tell you, other unhealthy practices or habits you have could be causing them to develop elsewhere on your body. Aside from treatment, a physio from reputable clinics like Institute of Sport Physiotherapy can help you avoid trigger points through education and exercises. Phone Graeme now for an appointment on (09) 379 5767.
Myofascial Trigger Point Therapy – What Is It?, National Association of Myofascial Trigger Point Therapists
Trigger Points & Myofascial Pain Syndrome, PainScience.com