Trigger Point Therapy Offers Pain Relief

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

Whether it’s a frozen joint or localized pain, trigger point therapy from a licensed massage therapist (LMT) can help.

“I’ve had patients come in with sciatica pain,” said Margaret Miner, licensed massage therapist and owner of Ohio Street Studio in Oswego. “They have trigger points at the waist. But the pain was in the hips and legs. When I relieve those trigger points, the sciatic pain went away. It wasn’t true sciatica, but areas of tight muscle compressing against the nerve, plus trigger points. Oftentimes, shoulder pain can be trickier because you don’t want to overlook a tear.

Some patients express surprise that just one treatment offers relief. For others, especially those who have endured a long-term issue, may take multiple treatments and need monthly “maintenance.”

Miner advises patients to rest and hydrate well after treatment. They should also improve the healing process by alternating application of ice and heat to reduce any inflammation and to increase circulation.

Some trigger points transfer pain between a series of trigger points. Cues from the patient can help the LMT to follow the path of the trigger points.

Miner said that posture and ergonomics play a big role in the development of trigger point issues. She leads a restorative yoga class and teaches how clients can adjust their posture for improved alignment.

“It can change how well your body functions,” Miner said. “If you knees hurt, it often comes from standing with your weight forward. The shoulders, hips and ankles should be aligned. Shift your weight back and engage your butt and hamstrings to take pressure off the knees. You get more direct pressure on hips to build bone too.”

The trigger points are in the “belly” of the muscle, usually—the area where the muscle is at its widest. The therapist applies pressure to the trigger point knot for 30 to 90 seconds, depending on the patient’s tolerance. At times, trigger point therapy can be uncomfortable.

“Trigger point therapy is not necessarily the entire muscle but particular fibers of the muscles that have become hypersensitive or tight,” Miner said.

She applies consistent pressure to trigger points, which may be uncomfortable, so she relies upon clients to let her know if the pressure becomes too much. She can feel the area relax and release, which means the patient has relief.

Daria Janecek, licensed massage therapist in private practice in Liverpool, said that trigger point therapy does not involve intense pain.

“It includes pressing down with my fingers on a trigger point, which means it’s a point in the body that has very, very tight muscles,” she said.

It may take a few sessions to find relief for areas that have been in pain for a long time; however, “once it releases, it won’t come back,” Janecek said.

Some therapists recommend stretching or exercise such as yoga or Pilates to their clients so that they stay limber and avoid trigger point pain. Practicing proper posture and ergonomics at work can also make a difference in prevention.