Trigger Point Massage
Though there are several specific types of massage therapy modalities, from Swedish, or relaxation, massage to rolfing massage, which can resemble a form of traction, trigger point massage is unique among the various modalities in that it identifies areas of the body where knots, or trigger points, have formed in both muscular as well as connective tissues. Much like a hair stylist would brush out knots in the hair with a brush or comb, the massage therapist who specializes in trigger point massage ultimately attempts to smooth out the rough trigger points that can develop in muscle mass and connective tissue areas due to any number of different stressors.
Trigger points are scientifically defined as areas of local nerve facilitation of a muscle that are aggravated by stress of any kind and thought to be caused by the interaction of calcium and adenosine triphosphate (ATP) on stressed muscles. Trigger points can develop in any of the four hundred muscles of the body, and are characterized by limited range of motion and accompanied by referred pain patterns.
There are many objectives trigger point massage attempts to achieve. Applying pressure to trigger points causes an immediate interruption between neural and muscular communication, which can provide pain relief as well as re-educate muscle memory. By retraining the muscles, pain and tension can eventually be decreased, while range of motion can be steadily increased. In addition, flexibility, coordination, and circulation can also be ultimately improved by this massage modality.
Several medical conditions respond well to trigger point massage therapy. Some of the more common examples of such medical conditions include headaches, both tension as well as migraine; temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ); carpal tunnel syndrome, which affects the fingers and hands; lateral epicondylitis, or tennis elbow; adhesive capsulitis, or frozen shoulder; and plantar faciitis, or persistent pain in the heel area of the foot. While not intended to replace conventional medical treatments, trigger point massage can provide a less invasive or alternative way to manage the pain associated with these conditions.
As with all other types of massage modalities, there are certain medical conditions that are contraindicated for trigger point massage therapy. For instance, trigger point massage should not be considered for treatment, either conventional or supplemental, for people with anticoagulation or bleeding disorders (hemophilia); osteitis, or bone inflammation; periostitis, or inflammation of the connective tissue that surrounds bones; hypermobility; or acute circulatory disturbances, such as thrombosis.
Trigger point massage is thought to have originated in the United States in the 1970s, when Bonnie Prudden, a physical fitness and exercise therapist, developed techniques into a treatment called myotherapy, which was specifically designed for patients who found trigger point injections too painful. The treatments included applying consistent pressure to trigger points for a sustained amount of time and using specific massage therapy techniques. Today, trigger point massage is recognized as a viable alternative therapeutic approach to pain management and exists as one of the most recognized massage modalities currently practiced in the United States.