What do you do? This is one of the most common questions I am asked and apparently a million dollar question! One of my patients this week suggested that I tell people that I do Trigger Point Therapy as a lot of people can identify with this. I hesitate to "market" this, as it is only one part of the range of treatment techniques I use. However, I thought it was a a really good idea to explain this component of my treatments by explaining the accepted definition of a myofascial trigger point.
Definition of a myofascial trigger point (TrPs) - basically the spots in your muscles that are really tender when you have treatment, but you feel them release, are called myofascial TrPs. There are however some common clinical features that are associated with the diagnosis of mysofascial TrPs. These include;
Palpable Band - A cord-like band of fibres is palpable in the involved muscle.
Spot Tenderness - a VERY tender and VERY small spot is usually found
in a palpable band.
Jump Sign - placing pressure on the spot of tenderness causes the patient to physically react to the pain with a spontaneous exclamation or movement (or sometimes swearing...you know who you are!!)
Pain recognition - pressure on TrP induces at least some of the pain of which the patient complains, and the patient recognizes it as his or her pain. This pain can be felt in a referred zone, for example, pressure on the glut medius can cause pain down the leg. This finding by definition identifies an active TrP.
Twitch Response - the local twitch response is a transient contraction of the fibres of the taut band associated with a TrP when palpated.
Elicited Referred Pain and Tenderness - active TrPs refer pain in a pattern characteristic of that muscle and the pain is usually not where the TrP is, but is referred to a distance. This is often a surprise to patients, that the site of the pain is not where the problem is.
Restricted Range of Motion - stretching to full range of motion of the affected muscle can be restricted by pain. This restriction eases when the palpable taut bands are released through inactivation of associated TrPs.
Muscle weakness - clinically, the patient is unable to achieve full normal strength on static testing, as compared to testing of a contralateral uninvolved muscle. Also, the involved muscle is more likely to fatigue quickly.
The key to any successful treatment of TrPs is to figure out why they are there in the first place AND, do not treat TrPs in one particular muscle in isolation.......because the knee bone is connected to the...thigh bone, and the thigh bone is connected to the......keep singing!
Reference - "UPDATE OF Myofascial Pain from Trigger Points" By Professor David Simons
Travell, Janet; Simons David; Simons Lois (1999). Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: The Trigger Point Manual (2 vol. set, 2nd Ed.). USA: Lippincott Williams & Williams.