Feeling sore, tight and fatigued? You’ve stretched until the cows came home but you really don’t feel any better. You’ve deloaded, done your recovery session, even taken a hot bath. You know what you need is some deep, hard, painful soft tissue work. Oh how nice a massage would be right now. The problem is not all of us have the time or the money to invest in some good soft tissue work. Want a cheap yet extremely effective way to get rid of your aches and pains? Go out to your backyard and steal your dogs tennis ball…with a little understanding and application, this little baby is going to become your new best friend.
What Is A Trigger Point?
A trigger point is a specific area in the muscle where the fibres are over active and cannot relax and release from their contracted state. Most of us at some point in time would have referred to this as a knot.
Trigger points can be actively painful, i.e. you feel the pain at the site or because of the trigger point. They can also be completely pain free, unless they are poked and touched. These are called latent trigger points. Both will cause you issues and further pain.
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What Is Myofascial Pain Syndrome?
Myo is referring to the muscle; fascia is the stuff that covers the muscles. Myofascial Pain Syndrome is therefore when you experience pain as a result of dysfunction in your muscles and fascia. It is basically a fancy name for muscle pain. Myofascial Pain Syndrome occurs when a muscle and/or its fascia has trigger points.
How Do Trigger Points Cause Pain
Not only do some trigger points hurt you right on the spot, they can get you in places totally unrelated. A big symptom of a trigger point is its referred pain. Trigger points have the ability to send their pain to another part of the body. Trigger points can cause:
- Neck Pain
- Jaw Pain
- Back Pain
- Tennis Elbow
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- General Muscle & Joint Pain
Often joint pain we experience is simple referred pain from trigger points. It is common to feel referred pain from a trigger point in your wrists, shoulders, knees and hips. To test it out, extend your wrist. The muscle that pops out on the top of your forearm is a common place for latent trigger points. Press around there, you are most likely going to find some sore points! Some of you will even find pressing on those sore points will refer pain down to your wrist.
Sometimes, you just don’t know they are there. In this case, it’s not too serious, but if you have knee pain and it is because you have some trigger points in your calves, it is very easy for it go unnoticed and untreated. In fact, this is a common cause, or secondary cause of knee pain. The pain caused by latent trigger points is often more worrying than those of active ones. Trigger points make the muscle tighter and shorter, often reducing range of motion. If you don’t know they are there, chances are they will go untreated and can lead to further injury and bad mechanics.
pic: johnny alive
Tennis Balls Rock
We have seen and discussed the benefits of foam rolling. But, a tennis ball allows you to be a lot more focused and really get into your trigger points. Active and Latent! Trigger points respond to pressure. You only have to touch one or have one touched to feel the pain it elicits. As you work through the point you find the pain diminishes as the trigger point starts to disappear.
There are quite a few spots in the body you should be working on, so I have split this post into 3 parts. Part 2 will look at areas of your lower body that need attention, and Part 3 will focus on the upper body. Until then, go and find yourself a tennis ball. A good stretch will help, but doing this soft tissue work will make you feel better, I guarantee.
If you liked this post and suffer from muscle and joint pain, then you need to check out the Ultimate Self Massage Guide. It details exactly how to release all the important muscles in your body with a tennis ball and foam roller. This knowledge will enable you to treat your own pain at home, get rid of your symptoms without spending money on a therapist, and move and feel better.