A nagging hip. Constant pain in the lower back. Seized up neck and shoulders. These are the most common causes of pain that I hear about from people. My first question – and invariable answer to these people in need of my help is … HAVE YOU EVER TRIED TRIGGER POINT THERAPY?
I have often said it is the only piece of fitness equipment you will ever need. Now, I know there may be many different pieces of fitness equipment you may use, and love; however, I stress the point NEED here. If you want to keep training, improve performance and restrict injuries from becoming chronic – then consider trigger point therapy as the ‘tune up’ your body always needs to stay at a consistent level.
There are many different types of foam rollers, sticks, and balls – smooth, spiky, hard and soft. A bit of a minefield for the average consumer in need of help. So for me, I always say (nothing against the other types) – but the lacrosse ball is the most effective one to choose. It’ll give you the most bang for your buck as the Americans say.
Protone Lacrosse Ball £6.98 – available at Amazon.co.uk. (link below)
Trigger point therapy isn’t miraculous, just experimental. It’s also underrated; the self-treatment it can provide has the potential to quickly, cheaply and safely help with many common pain problems that don’t respond well – or at all – to anything else. Nobody’s perfect, we all have some part of our body that we are wary off when training – so if you want help in alleviating this problem area, then please keep reading.
WHAT ARE TRIGGER POINTS?
Trigger points are small parts of the muscle that are tightly contracted in order to prevent any further wear and tear. Imagine an old school telephone cord that you’ve over stretched and it won’t quite spring back to how it was. That is what your muscle specifically tries to prevent by developing trigger points, and no amount of stretching will help alleviate the pain you feel.
Have you ever felt life you have a ‘knot’ or tender spot in a muscle? In fact, it may be both. Your muscles are like rubber bands. They can be stretched, re-tensioned but also over worked. Let’s take the lower back for example. The lower back muscles love to help out when they can; to keep you mobile and upright throughout the day. But eventually, the muscles can only help out for so long before saying enough is enough. TAD DAH! Lower back pain.
MUSCLE IS THE ORPHAN ORGAN.
I won’t bore you too much with the science behind trigger point therapy, as there are much smarter people than me that you can look up online, or read in books. Becoming a Supple Leopard by Dr Kelly Starrett – is a personal favourite of mine.
What I will say is that muscle tissue, particularly facia – is the largest organ in the body. Complex and venerable – yet prone to as much dysfunction as bones, joints, tendons, ligaments and nerves. Now I’m not writing this to discredit or bad-mouth other treatments or practitioners – but I will say that trigger point therapy (or myofascial release as it’s medically known) does not have the clinical attention it deserves. Which means misdiagnoses are more likely and the wrong kind of treatment could not only inhibit your recovery, but more importantly hurt your wallet!
IS A MUSCLE OVERWORKED OR UNDERUSED?
When it comes to muscle pain, the symptom is not always the cause. This is why trigger point therapy is still experimental, there is still a lot of trial and error – but in my experience, if you keep trying, you start to see common patterns emerge.
So we talked about the lower back muscles before and how they love to help out when they can, which can cause trigger points in the muscles. However, trigger points can also occur in muscles that don’t work enough. So when someone comes to me with lower back pain, the first place I go is not the lower back, but the glutes.
Several different areas that can cause lower back pain
The gluteus maximus – no, not the guy from Gladiator – but your bum muscles. When you spend too much time sitting down, they effectively ‘spread’ and become inactive. So when you decide to stand up and move around, the bum doesn’t remember how to ‘kick in’ as effectively as it once did, therefore the lower back muscles will pick up the slack. TAD DAH! Lower back pain again.
HOW DO YOU TRIGGER POINT?
In a nutshell, using a trigger point ball (lacrosse ball) is effectively deep tissue massage. You simply apply as much body weight as you can handle onto the affected area. So with the bum – you sit on it. With the hips – lie on your side or front. The neck and shoulders – on your back or side. These are just a few examples, but there are many other techniques and areas to experiment with.
Everyone is different and feels it in different ways. So trial and error folks; keep trying, hunt around for those tender areas in the muscles that are causing you pain and this will invariably generate blood flow to the area, which promotes repair and relief. Now, there are exceptions to who should trigger point – it is not recommended for pregnant people, on areas with bursitis or varicose veins or people with high blood pressure. So if you are affected by these, then please seek professional advice from your doctor.
EMBRACE THE PAIN!
I’m not going to sugar coat it. Trigger point therapy is going to hurt in some places more than others – but change is painful right?
Pain face – lets me know we’ve found the spot
There is such a thing as GOOD pain for the body. If you can recreate the pain you feel in a controlled environment i.e. perform the movement that causes you pain, with the ball in the right place on the muscle; then you should be able to perform that movement pain free. This means you’ve isolated the problem – and that is your first step to curing it.
Consistency is key – you are fighting against years of bad posture/movement, so deep breaths and just dig in. Because the great thing about a trigger point ball is that you don’t have to book an appointment to use it. Wait another week for a session. You can even take it with you to work – a quick five minutes on the bum on a chair for the lower back pain, for example. Nobody will see, I promise.
The more you trigger point, the less you’ll have to. Best £10 you’ll ever spend. Except on Pilates classes of course!
Personal Trainer & Pilates Instructor
07730 479 576