What are Myofascial Trigger Points?
Myofascial trigger points are irritable tight nodules in taut bands of muscle which are painful when you press on them and often cause pain to be projected or “triggered” in distant predictable patterns specific to each muscle. Trigger points may also be located in the fascia, skin, tendons and ligaments. Trigger points are often far from the location of pain. They can be caused by a variety of factors including accidents, over-use or under-use of muscles, ergonomic problems in the home or workplace or bio mechanical imbalances such as a short leg, small hemipelvis, long second toe or short upper arms. Myofascial pain may be perpetuated by poor nutrition, sleep deprivation, prolonged and unrelieved mental or physical stress, or a combination of these or other factors. Once myofascial trigger points are activated they can trigger pain and dysfunction in nearby muscles for life unless properly treated with myofascial trigger point therapy. Myofascial pain is often misdiagnosed and mistreated because the trigger point(s) causing pain is often distant to where the pain is felt. An example is that hand or arm pain may be caused by trigger points in the neck, shoulder or back; leg, knee and foot pain may be caused by trigger points in the lower back and hip. These myofascial pain patterns do not always follow neurological pain patterns and have separate etiologies or origins.
While medications can provide short-term relief, they do not address the cause of chronic myofascial pain syndrome, and they pose a risk of side-effects or even possible drug dependency. Surgery is a higher cost and higher risk method of pain relief, justified in many cases. However, when myofascial factors are paramount, they can be treated non-invasively with trigger point therapy at much lower cost and risk. Trigger point therapy also offers a higher chance of full and long-lasting recovery due to extensive training of the patient in self-care techniques, even post-surgically.