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Trigger points are those naughty knots in your muscles that cause pain and aggravation. By their very nature they shorten muscles, misalign joints, and can send pain, numbness, and tingling into areas far away from the trigger point itself.
Most of us just live with trigger points because they’re not yet well known and so their management hasn’t become common knowledge.
One of the best ways to treat trigger points at home is to massage them out or apply moderate pressure to them for about ten seconds at a time or do a special type of contract and release (PNF) stretching.
But how do you prevent them from occurring in the first place? Here are some tips:
• Nutrition. Eat well, no junk. If you follow the Canadian or American Food Guide, eating the recommended amounts from all food groups, then you’ll be in a good nutritional state. And if you do take a multivitamin with minerals a day, you may be interested in an excellent food-sourced supplement called Greens+ Multi+. I suggest the natural rather than flavoured kind.
• Posture. If you hunch at the computer, slouch on the couch, and have poor body mechanics at work and at play, your muscles are put into a constant state of imbalance that causes strain. This leads to trigger points. If you can’t get out of your misaligned state, you may have to release your trigger points before the beautiful and aligned posture that is your birthright becomes easy to do and to maintain.
• Repetition and Strain. If your muscles are overdoing it, they get into a weakened fatigued state that make them susceptible to developing trigger points. The middle path is best, neither over or under doing it.
• Constriction. If you carry a heavy bag on one shoulder, sit at a chair that compresses the backs of your thighs, wear clothing that cuts into your muscles, or the like, you’re making yourself a prime target for painful knots.
• Structure. Some people have what is called a ‘true’ leg length discrepancy as opposed to a functional one, which is caused by muscle shortening. Other people have a pelvis that is smaller on one side than the other, or a spine that permanently curves in a way that is not optimal for a spine. In many cases these problems can be improved. For instance, you can use orthotics to balance your leg lengths, a wedge cushion under the smaller side of the pelvis when you sit, and work at releasing muscles that may be increasing your structural spinal curvature.
• Mental and Physical Health. Depression, anxiety, fibromyalgia, hypoglycemia, hypothyroid, allergic rhinitis, and bacterial, viral, and parasitic infections all contribute to the development of trigger points. I like the Taoist attitude towards the human form, which is to cherish your body and take the best care of it that you can.
• Breath. If you continuously breathe shallowly, which includes upper chest breathing or varying levels of hyperventilation, your body’s chemical state is actually changed, making you much more susceptible to developing trigger points. I can’t stress enough that a consistent practice of deep abdominal breathing is a key method for preventing trigger points.
• Sleep. If your sleep is not good, your health will suffer in all ways. In general, we are a sleep-deprived society. Make sleep a priority.
• Stress and anxiety. Our muscles are often the places we hold tension and worry, especially our neck and shoulders. Make a point of learning ways to calm your nervous system and release the tension from your muscles. Breathing exercises, meditations, relaxation CDs, yoga, tai chi, and relaxing by the lake or in the forest are all good ways to begin.
If you work some of the above suggestions into your lifestyle, you’ll likely reduce the number of trigger points you are experiencing. The change can be dramatic. You can go from a state of chronic and constant pain, to one of relative peace and painlessness. The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook
And if life throws you some trigger points, anyway, the best approach if you want to work them out yourself is to pick up The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook and a hard rubber lacrosse ball or a 60 mm Superball, and get releasing. Or head to your massage therapist for some Massage Cupping, which releases triggers points easily.
Massage Cupping to Release Trigger Points
What is a Trigger Point?
Trigger Points, Release and Forget the Pain
Trigger Point Release for Heel Pain
Reduce Sport Pain
Exercise, Massage, & New Activity Cautions
Photo Credit: Edwin PP
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