Trigger points, also known as myofascial trigger points, are a particular type of complaint that causes muscle or myofascial pain. Generally they are thought to be focal, sensitive area(s) of irritated muscle within a taut band of muscle or in fascia, the connective tissue surrounding muscle and other tissues. When compressed, trigger points can produce referred pain or local tenderness. Often trigger points will have consistent pain referral patterns from individual to individual. Trigger points can be caused by muscle overuse or joint instability, when the muscles attempt to protect the joint by contracting which results in fatigue, overuse, tightness and eventually trigger points.
Trigger point therapy may include ischemic compression, self-release, or other specialized approaches such as Travelle or Nimmo technique. Ischemic compression, for example, is a generic yet effective approach to treat myofascial trigger points. First, your chiropractor will begin with a full history and exam to determine if the procedure will be appropriate for you, and if you might benefit from this treatment. In the course of this exam your doctor will examine sore spots to locate any taut bands of muscle in your body. If you report that you feel referred pain (pain that is felt some distance away from the site being palpated) you might have a myofascial trigger point. To treat them, your doctor will apply steady, deep pressure manually with a thumb or elbow directly to the point. She will hold the pressure for five to ten seconds and then release for two to three seconds. The process is repeated three or four times in the session. The doctor will use increasing pressure each time. The process is repeated until the pain diminishes or after two minutes.
Generally, this is a very safe and effective technique to reduced muscle pain, increase range of motion, and reduce tightness. You and your doctor might include self-release techniques in the treatment plan, and/or rehabilitation exercise or activity modifications to help you get better. Side effects can include soreness, which resolves after a day or two, or potentially mild bruising.