Trigger Points: How Knowing about Them Can Help You Avoid Pain

Trigger points, more commonly known as muscle 'knots,' are tightly clenched groups of muscular fibers that can cause discomfort ranging from minor soreness to chronic pain. There are many trigger points on the body, but the ones that most commonly cause pain are located in the neck and back. While seeking professional help is useful, and in more severe cases can be necessary, having some basic knowledge about trigger points can allow you to treat them yourself in many cases.

How to Identify Trigger Points

Identifying trigger points is usually simple—check where it hurts! If you are experiencing soreness or pain in your neck or back, try to locate the center of the pain, and gently explore the area with your fingers. If you find one spot that hurts the most when you press on it, that's likely the location of the 'knot.' If the center of the pain is in a hard-to-reach area like the center of your back, have a friend press gently but firmly on different areas until you locate the trigger point.

How do you treat the pain?

If the pain is severe, long-lasting, or doesn't cease after self-massage, it's wise to seek the help of a chiropractor at a place like Fulk Chiropractic. However, self-massage can be surprisingly effective, and costs you nothing! While there is no guarantee that self-treatment will work, here's some advice on how to deal with back or neck pain yourself.

What should you use to massage the knot?

Generally, it's best to apply constant, focused pressure, which is best done with your fingertips or knuckles. In some cases, the trigger point may be tough to reach by yourself, in which case you'll want to grab a massage partner. If a friend is doing the massaging for you, it can be effective for them to use their elbows or the flat of their palm to apply more pressure.

However, even if you don't have a friend on hand, there are still ways to self-massage hard to reach spots. Tennis balls are surprisingly effective—simply lie on your back with a tennis ball beneath the location of the pain and move back and forth, remaining as horizontal as possible. If you have a foam roller or other massage tool, that can also be effective.

How much pressure should you apply?

This can vary with the severity of the pain, which is why it's important to listen to your nervous system. You should rub hard enough that you feel some pain, but not so that it becomes unbearable—perhaps a 5 or 6 on a scale of 1–10 for pain. As for method, either press firmly on the center of the pain and hold the pressure there for a few seconds before releasing, or rub in circular and/or back or forth motions, firmly and continuously.

How often should you apply self-treatment?

This can vary based on the severity of the knots, but a good rule is to keep up the massaging a few times a day until the pain stops. It's important to remember not to go overboard, and to stop immediately if the pain worsens to avoid personal injury.

Self-massage can be a surprisingly effective way to treat trigger points and will cost you nothing, so it's always a good first step if you're experiencing neck or back pain. There are no guarantees, and you should seek professional help if the pain worsens or doesn't cease, but basic knowledge of how to treat trigger points can save you hundreds that you'd spend on chiropractic care.

Dixie Somers is a freelance writer and blogger for business, home, and family niches. Dixie lives in Phoenix, Arizona, and is the proud mother of three beautiful girls and wife to a wonderful husband.

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Comment by Lisa Shaw on July 9, 2017 at 8:13am

Hi, Dixie. Thanks for this article.  Can you include a very brief abstract before the body of the article?  This is now a requirement before I can submit to the publishers.  Thanks.

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