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Trigger point therapy to deal with pain

 
pollinator
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I posted a new entry on my blog the other day about trigger point therapy.  A search of the forums here doesn't turn up anything for this.  I must admit I'm surprised at that.  Maybe I'm just missing it, but regardless it seems like something I should share as I think it would be right up the alley of those with a permaculture interest as it is a simple, cheap, drug free way to deal with most soft tissue pain.  It's also seeking out the source of the pain and dealing with that rather than just trying to dull and mask the pain.  

Here's a cut and paste from some of my blog entry:

Many years later, in some thread on some forum, I read about something called trigger point therapy as a cheap, easy, effective way to deal with most soft tissue pain, such as that back pain I had experienced. The book recommended was the 2nd edition of The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook by Davies and Davies.

I decided to buy a copy and see what it was about. I was a bit skeptical but very much liked the idea of it being a self treatment guide, both because I’m just generally a DIY kind of person, and because I lived alone so any guide requiring a second person to massage muscles wasn’t really practical for me.

It seemed intriguing once I got and read it. The basic tools needed were some sort of ball like a hard rubber lacrosse ball and a sock. I had the sock already and for a few bucks I got a pack of lacrosse balls. (The sock is to put the ball in and toss over your back to access those difficult to reach places. You position the ball in the sock between your body and a wall, leaning into the wall to provide the pressure.) Combining those with the book I was all set to deal with what the authors said was the primary cause of roughly 75% of pain, and a contributing factor in most of the rest. This seemed like an outrageous claim, but I think my total dollar outlay at the time was less than 20 bucks so it seemed worth the risk of trying. I don’t know that $20 would even get me in the door of a doctor’s office!

Some time later, my back, which always remained a bit sensitive to reinjury after that first episode went out again while lifting a piece of firewood. Particularly annoying was the fact that it wasn’t even a large piece of firewood! Anyway, I hobbled back inside wondering if the trigger point therapy would work on this or not. It was pretty serious pain, of the type that took months to heal previously. I’d messed around with trigger points for minor issues since getting the book, and it seemed to help, but I was never sure if it was really the therapy helping or just the fact that it was a minor issue which would have gotten better quickly anyway. This back pain I knew from that past experience, and I knew I’d be suffering from it for weeks at least.

The interesting thing about trigger points are that they don’t tend to be located where the pain is felt. Thus you can spend all the time you want massaging the location of the pain trying to ease and relax the muscle, but often that isn’t the muscle which is really the problem. Rather what you are generally feeling is referred pain from another muscle that has knotted up forming a trigger point...

...The treatment involved using the lacrosse ball rolled with pressure across the trigger points a few times, several times a day. That was it! In this instance I was back to normal in about 3 days! It was like a miracle cure! Mind you this isn’t always that effective. Again years later while playing with heavy rocks, as I like to do, I did a lift and twist with a boulder that was just too heavy and there went the back again. The trigger point therapy certainly helped reduce my pain, but that time it was still a few weeks before I was back to full strength.


I note later in the blog that I'm now using the3rd edition of The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook which is basically the same but has a bit better system for quickly locating where your trigger points likely are.  Personally I feel like this book is an indispensable part of first aid supplies for any home.  

Do any of you use trigger point therapy?
 
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I didn't realize there was a name for it until a few months ago. I do this to get rid of headaches. Usually hands or feet (although feet get awkward in public so I usually just use hands). I've used it to get rid of migraines, and it works for other things as well.

One thing to remember is that it doesn't fix structural problems--if your back is literally out of line it's not going to fix that, although it probably will help with the pain. It won't fix a broken arm or a broken head, sorry.

I've found that the hands and feet reflect the rest of the body. If the pain is between shoulders and feet, you'll need to use the feet. Shoulders or above, you can use the hands.

What you're looking for is a spot that crunches under your fingers when you press firmly, and the spot of congestion will seldom be in the same place twice so I tend to ignore the hand and foot "maps" that various practices put out. I usually start on the palms because that's the simplest, but the spot or spots could be anywhere on the hands or feet. It's hard at first to tell the difference between bones crunching together and the crunch of nerve congestion, but with practice you can feel it. I've been told I have very strong hands, which helps a lot. When I do this for people THEY can feel the congestion and what that crunch feels like so they can find it for themselves the next time.

If the area is exceptionally sensitive, work around it, working in toward the point you need to massage out. Sometimes it's actually sensitive to the touch, so much so that touching it (not pressing) is painful. When people have migraines and I'm working that out their hands will often be extremely sensitive. Once you have the spot isolated, massage it until the crunch is gone. One thing to note is that if you're working on a migraine you'll be working with the hand on the same side as the pain. With a regular headache, it will be on the opposite hand.
 
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I had a massage therapist use this technique on me, and it worked well. I never visited a Dr in the six years I had this done...

The guy would go by associated colors. For instance, he would press on a spot and then ask me what color I could see. The longer the "knot" was there, the darker in color it would be, like black, purple or red. But as he pressed, and the knot relaxed, and the pain eased, it would fade to green, yellow or white. So by him pressing, and me giving the color, he knew how my body was reacting to the trigger point.

I have not seen him in years, but i do not have too...I have a wife!

Katie (my wife) is not a massuese, but she has learned some massage therapy ways, and every other night or so, keeps me going with a massage. I mow the sides of the roads for muncipalities, so lately it has been my neck, since my boom mower is 20 feet out in the ditch, and I am constantly turned sideways looking at it. And because it is a standard-shift tractor, my knees as well.

Lauren alluded to this, but Reflexology helps with that.

Years ago I had knee surgery, and struggled for 6 months in rehabilitation with it. I was doing the exercises and all that, but the pain was still there. Then out of desperation, the woman finally began to massage me, and instantly the tenons in my knee relaxed, and I could go back to work. But she did not rub my knee. The area she worked was my Achilles tenon which pulls upon your knee. That was the problem. So that is what Katie works to help the four million times per day I use the clutch on the tractor.

But really the feet, hands and tips of you ears also will ease pain.
 
David Huang
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Lauren, it sounds like what you are doing is a bit different than what I'm talking about, though perhaps related.  If I had to guess I would say that what you are doing is working on the energy body.  I'm guessing that based on the tiny bit I've explored this where the hands and feet were the prime conduits for pulling energy into and running it through the body.  It does sound fascinating and worth looking into more.

What I'm talking about seems to be based quite solidly in the physical material body.  Muscles get overworked, damaged, or tweaked in some fashion that cause areas to contract and tense up to the point they get frozen in that knotted position.  This in turn affects some nerve causing the pain sensations, usually at a short distance from the trigger point.  It is quite predictable and thus maps are of great help in finding the trigger points at the root of the pain so you know where to work the body releasing them.  That's what the book I mentioned is, a big map or atlas of known trigger points and the locations of the pains they cause.

Travis, it sounds like you are similar to me in that your life activities cause the same issues over and over, thus once you learn where the trigger points are it is easy to go right to them.  Lower back and neck pain are my common issues resulting from too much time sitting leaning over my work.
 
Lauren Ritz
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Related, yes. I talked to a physiologist a few months ago who said I was doing trigger point therapy. I'd never heard of it until then. It could be energy work as well, and in fact I've had people familiar with energy work say that's what I'm doing. I've gotten the same from massage therapists, chiropractors, reflexologists, and a number of other specialties. Kind of a hybrid, maybe. Trigger point seems to be the closest match so far. I haven't moved past hands and feet much simply because I do this on other people and usually in public. The few massage experiences I have had were the same--seek out the congestion and get rid of it. And you're right that it's seldom where the pain is. It works on arthritis, migraines, seems to work on fibro (I never saw her again so I don't know how long it lasted), reduces nausea, and from what I've heard back the pain relief lasts anywhere from a few hours to weeks.

As far as the maps,  I can only say that I have found the reflexology, iridiology, (and other) maps to be pretty much useless in what I'm doing. But whatever it is, it works.
 
Travis Johnson
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Lauren Ritz wrote:Related, yes. I talked to a physiologist a few months ago who said I was doing trigger point therapy. I'd never heard of it until then. It could be energy work as well, and in fact I've had people familiar with energy work say that's what I'm doing. I've gotten the same from massage therapists, chiropractors, reflexologists, and a number of other specialties. Kind of a hybrid, maybe. Trigger point seems to be the closest match so far. I haven't moved past hands and feet much simply because I do this on other people and usually in public. The few massage experiences I have had were the same--seek out the congestion and get rid of it. And you're right that it's seldom where the pain is. It works on arthritis, migraines, seems to work on fibro (I never saw her again so I don't know how long it lasted), reduces nausea, and from what I've heard back the pain relief lasts anywhere from a few hours to weeks.

As far as the maps,  I can only say that I have found the reflexology, iridiology, (and other) maps to be pretty much useless in what I'm doing. But whatever it is, it works.




I am not sure Lauren...


For years I had a standing order to see a massage therpist at the same Dr's office, every three weeks (due to the insurance I had). The thing of it was, I had many, many different massage therpists due to when they were available for work. Some liked sports, so they had more of a sports injury massage bent, while others were more of an all-over massage, where as others did reflexology, and yet that one guy did trigger point therapy. I say all this to say, I think massage therpists just gravitate to something they like, and when they get positive feedback from their patients, they stick with what they know, and what works.

I did have a massage therpist that I got to know quite well, and she took a class on "core massage therapy", and wanted to try it, but asked only a few people she trusted. It was vey invasive and intense because she was basically massaging your inner hips. To get there, she worked between my groin, and my deep upper thigh, but because it had never been a place that was massaged before, it was really intense. Over time it got better (was not painful the next day), but it also helped with a lot of body positing. It strengthened my core by relaxing some very tense muscles! The only reason she asked only a few people she trusted was because of how intense it was, and because we were people who wanted real progress and not a foo-foo massage (all over, feel good massage).

I would just toss out the "maps" too Lauren, and just ask your patients where they feel you massage-touch.




 
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I'm a fan, if you don't have access to dry needling or trigger point injections, the ball techniques work well. If you search for dry needling, I think you will find some other threads. My wife is not as nice as Travis', (even though she is very indulgent of my ridiculous projects) but we both use a roller and a couple balls (one is a special hard tennis ball, one a lacrosse ball) along with the rollers for maintenance.

Honestly, since I started doing the loop bands, my lower body has been solid. My upper body and back really are helped by the maintenance rollers and trigger points after years of youthful indiscretion. I do think doing specific hip girdle lifting exercises like squats are important since we all cheat on the range of motion during the day.
 
Lauren Ritz
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One reason I think they're related is because of the number of times people have said they're feeling the massage (or pain, or itching, etc) in areas I haven't touched. In my personal opinion "energy work" is the same--activating the electrical system built into the human body. It's all connected.
 
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