What is Trigger Point Release?

T. Carrier
T. Carrier
Chiropractors often use the trigger point method to ease pain.
Chiropractors often use the trigger point method to ease pain.

Trigger point release is a form of massage therapy based on the theory of trigger points. Practitioners of trigger point release believe that a muscle knot called a trigger point causes pain. Palpitation of these trigger points may therefore alleviate pain. Trigger point release is also known as neuromuscular therapy or myotherapy.

Although precise definitions vary, trigger points are generally believed to be small knots located on skeletal muscle fiber called fascia. They are tightly contracted and filled with wasteful substances. Furthermore, these nodules twitch, are tender to the touch, and cause pain. Frequently, the associated pain spreads to various areas of the body. This type of condition is known as referred pain, because the pain may not originate within the hurtful area.

Trigger point release therapy may be done to relieve pain in the upper back.
Trigger point release therapy may be done to relieve pain in the upper back.

Theorists have identified over 600 potential trigger points in muscles. Trigger points may actively cause pain, or they may activate other trigger points to cause pain. Factors such as overworked muscles, physical or emotional trauma, and infectious disease may set off trigger points. When found in abundance, trigger points may lead to myofascial pain syndrome, a condition of pain generalized throughout the body. Related pains are often confused with arthritis or other common ailments.

Trigger point release therapy involves loosening the muscles utilizing a variety of techniques. When trigger points are active, the muscles tighten, thereby reducing blood flow and putting pressure on nerves. Restoring muscular flexibility can alleviate these pain-inducing effects. Techniques typically center around massaging, stroking, and providing deep pressure along the trigger point pathways.

Individuals can also facilitate their own therapeutic exercises through the use of a foam roll. For example, one can utilize a foam roll on upper back muscles by assuming a sit-up position. After placing the roll below the shoulders between one’s back and the ground, an individual then raises the hips and stabilizes the head with one’s hands. For the next step, the individual rolls the foam along the back until it rests at the mid-back. If a tender point is felt, the individual should press into the foam until the pain alleviates.

Self-administered trigger point release can be applied to muscles all over the body, including the legs, arms, and hamstring. Each muscle application generally takes about two minutes. Compression of a trigger point should be sustained for between half a minute and a minute. Controlled breathing is also important in such exercises. Any self-administered techniques should be used with care and ideally discussed with a physician beforehand.

Several practitioners claim scientifically validated success with trigger point release, including the method’s founder: Janet Travel. Practitioners of alternative medicine like chiropractors or acupuncturists often promote the therapy, although professional medical organizations have not given an official endorsement to trigger point release methods.

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    • Chiropractors often use the trigger point method to ease pain.
      By: lunamarina
      Chiropractors often use the trigger point method to ease pain.
    • Trigger point release therapy may be done to relieve pain in the upper back.
      By: Paul Hakimata
      Trigger point release therapy may be done to relieve pain in the upper back.