How many times have you asked someone to rub your shoulders because they feel sore and tight and then they find a spot that feels like a knot? Well, that small, painful, hard knot they just found in the muscle is a trigger point. In a healthy muscle, all the fibers are long and even, however, a trigger point causes an unhealthy contraction, so that some of those fibers twist into a knot. When a knot appears in a muscle, it causes pain for two reasons.
First, the muscle loses access to the nutrients in the blood, and second, without healthy circulation passing through, toxins tend to build up in the contracted area. The muscle typically shortens, as well, and will often restrict the range of motion and flexibility in the affected area. Once you have a trigger point, or several of them, you will no doubt alter the way you move, sit, or stand to instinctively protect yourself. At the same time, the muscle is contracting to protect itself. Unfortunately, all this makes the problem worse, your body begins to adopt poor postures that tighten other muscles, leading to additional or worsening existing muscle imbalances. This is one reason why some people have both nerve based back pain caused by muscle imbalances and tissue-based back pain caused by a knot or trigger point within a single muscle.
There are many causes of trigger points but here’s one that you may not have paid too much attention to. Blood circulation…… if your blood circulation is too slow or restricted it may be one of the causes of your trigger points. Poor blood circulation can be caused by many factors, stress is one, if you are stressed you will often tense your muscles which in turn reduces the circulation to the tense muscles.
Another cause may be the fact that you are dehydrated, if you do not drink enough water to hydrate your body you will be reducing the amount of oxygenated blood to flush the muscles of toxins. Poor circulation can also be caused by poor diet which in turn can cause inflammation making the trigger points swell. Lack of movement and stretching will also be a contributing factor.
This inadequate supply of oxygenated blood to the muscles means that the relaxation response that should make the trigger points disappear or at least go dormant will not be activated, this is why they can often stick around for a long time.
When we experience pain in our back or a joint we always immediately assume it was something we did that morning or the day before, however, unless it was a direct trauma, i.e. from a fall or accident that will not be the case I cannot over emphasize how important it is to look beyond the pain and find the cause. How many of us experienced back pain that lasted a few days and then the pain subsided. When the pain disappeared, rather than make an effort to identify and address the cause, we breathed a sigh of relief and got on with our life. Not addressing the reason for pain often means that later on down the road that pain will return but the next time around you may not be so lucky and it could either stay for a lot longer or become debilitating. Make it your goal to find the cause and address whatever it is you are doing that was responsible.Treating symptoms alone will never allow you a pain free life.
The same goes for trigger points. I am sure you have all heard the term “referred pain” well a trigger point can “refer” its pain to another muscle or other area of the body. For instance you could be feeling pain in your hips, buttocks or down your legs but the actual trigger point is located in the lower back or the pain is in your arm, mid-back or neck is being referred by the trigger point in your shoulder. Trigger points are also able to refer pain to other trigger points that may be on the same nerve pathway. Therefore if you only focus on the area where the pain is radiating from, the treatment is going to be unsuccessful. It is vital that you find the trigger points, wherever they are, and heal them, one by one.