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Do you get a ‘stitch’ in your side when you exercise? Do you have ongoing pain in your hamstrings or quadriceps? When you walk downstairs or when you squat down then stand up, do you get severe pain at the back of your knee?
All of these physical problems can occur as a result of trigger points, those naughty knots that form in your muscle tissue.
Trigger points are fairly easy to release, though the process can be a bit painful as the trigger points tend to try to stand their ground. All you need to do is apply a bit of pressure to the knot. The pressure should be quite light, but heavy enough to activate changes in the tissue, allowing circulation to jump start in a previously shut down area.
To apply pressure to trigger points you can use your fingers, knuckles, palms, elbows, knees, or feet, as well as various trigger point release tools including hi-bounce rubber balls of varying sizes, a red white and blue Indian rubber ball, or an Acu-Shiatsu or Theracane bar, which make releasing hard to get to areas easy.
Normal massage contraindications apply no matter what tools you use.
When doing trigger point release, working an area 30 seconds to a minute is the norm. For best results, you can do this a few times a day for a number of days until the area releases. A great reference on trigger points and self-release methods is Clair Davies’ The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook.
On to those problem areas.
If you get a stitch in your rib area during physical activity and/or you have trouble catching your breath the likely culprits are trigger points in a muscle called the serratus anterior. This muscle attaches to the underside of your shoulder blade and then comes around the side of your body, attaching onto nine ribs.
The best way to work on painful trigger points in this muscle is to reach your right hand forward and around to the ribs on the left side of the body and gently rub along the top of each rib with your fingers. For the right ribs, reach over with your left hand. You can also work your fingers up under your shoulder blades on each side as well.
Hamstrings can be painful indeed, with tenderness extending up into the buttocks and all the way down into the calf. Sometimes the hamstrings aren’t painful at all. Rather they’re tight and stiff so you have a reduced range of motions. Either way, you are at a risk for injury when these long muscles are knotted up. Luckily they’re easy to release.
Get yourself a red, white and blue Indian rubber or Pinky ball, a hard rubber lacrosse ball, or a hi-bounce ball of the same size, about 60 to 65 mm (2-1/2 inches), then work on releasing the hamstring by placing the ball between the back of your leg and a hard wooden chair or bench. Work the muscle from just below the hipbones to just above the knee. It’s likely you’ll need to do this release for a minute or so a few times each day for a number of days before you gain relief.
Knotted quadricep muscles can cause all sorts of aggravation and pain in the front of your thigh and in your knees. The best way to self-release is to use your elbow. Not the pointy tip, but the three or four inches of flat bone that range from the tip of your elbow in the direction of your wrist. Lean onto this part, pressing it up and down along the thigh releasing as you go.
The back-of-the-knee pain that you get with walking downstairs or standing up from a squat can be quite painful and maddening. The knotted muscle that creates this specific pain is a little one called the popliteus. This muscle helps to lock and unlock the knee each time you take a step, so if it has trigger points even walking can hurt.
How to release? Sit in a chair and search with your thumbs below the crease of your knee. With a little exploring you’ll find a small bump of a muscle that’s quite sore. Work this gently, avoiding any areas that have a pulse or give you that nerve feeling like you’ve just banged your funny bone.
All those painful muscle troubles you thought you had to live with? Grab a copy of the book and get releasing and you’ll have forgotten all about them in no time.
The new therapy, Massage Cupping, a method that uses Chinese Medicine cups to release tight and knotty tissue, is an extremely effective and much less painful way for your massage therapist to release your trigger points. For more info check the article Massage Cupping to Release Trigger Points.
Massage Cupping to Release Trigger Points
What is a Trigger Point?
No Trigger Points Allowed
Trigger Point Release for Heel Pain
Reduce Sport Pain
Exercise, Massage, & New Activity Cautions
Photo Credit: Bazil Raubach
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