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  • Writer's pictureRobin Hill LMT, RN

What are trigger points and where do they come from?

A trigger point is an irritable spot (knot) in a skeletal muscle. Skeletal muscles are the muscles that we can move voluntarily, like to bend our arm or leg whenever we want. Each muscle has an origin and an insertion, when the muscle contracts as to move, the insertion pulls toward the origin. There are three types of trigger points: skin trigger points (cutaneous), skeletal muscle trigger points and periosteal trigger points (in periosteum that covers the bones).

I am going to provide basic information on muscle trigger points. The entire muscle needs to contract for ideal performance. Muscles receive commands from the central nervous system in the form of a nerve impulse. This nerve impulse is not distributed equally in the muscle and causes the muscle to slightly twist during each contraction.

Each person has what is called a resting muscle tone. If this basic muscle tone increases, the muscle is not relaxed and tension can build up. Repetitive daily movements can elevate this resting muscle tone. Example would be jobs where one would type all day.

Trigger points can form in muscles from overuse, trauma, autoimmune problems, nutritional deficiencies, emotional stress, medications or nerve irritations. A trigger point is formed by increased resting muscle tone and constriction of blood vessels. The outcome is a decrease in blood supply (ischemia) to the muscle, accumulation of waste products and edema (swelling). All those contribute to the irritated spot in the muscle. Trauma, weakened and overstretched muscles can cause tiny tears in the muscle tissue and as it heals it can become twisted and possibly scar tissue can form.

Trigger points are perceived by the body as areas of maximal pain. The body forms protective muscle tension or muscle spasms in the area of the trigger point(s) and results in limited range of motion. This protection the body causes contributes to more discomfort.

Massage treatment for trigger points will help relax the muscles, restore blood flow to the area, release and flush out waste products and edema. Regular sessions will improve range of motion, reduce or remove pain, and improve posture. Call your therapist today and schedule an appointment! You do not need to live in constant pain.

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