Living with pain can greatly impact our quality of life, and very often we undermine the effect this can have on us. Whilst the physical symptoms can leave us feeling uncomfortable, sore and in discomfort, our emotional wellbeing can also take a hit. We can feel irritable, anxious and even depressed knowing that our daily lives are blighted with pain that feels like it’s never going to go away
Identifying and understanding the cause of our pain is crucial in order to make sure we seek out the right treatment in our quest for relief. Paying a trip to our GP may be our first port of call, but for some of us, seeking out alternative or complementary (yet effective) therapies is a route we may end up taking.
In this article we talk about myofascial pain and pain caused by so-called trigger points. These two pain causations have an intimate relationship, with myofascial pain sometimes caused by the presence of these trigger points. We go into lots more detail on both myofascial pain and trigger points throughout the article, including what they are, what causes them and how they can be treated. We’ll be looking at two different therapies used to treat each of these conditions in turn – myofascial release and trigger point therapy. In fact, just like their counterparts these two therapies are also very closely related although they are in fact two different therapies (even if they don’t seem to be at first). We’re therefore issuing a ‘disclaimer’ before you read any further – remember that we’re in essence talking about two different conditions and therefore two different therapies too. Don’t worry though, we’ll keep you right as we go along!
Finally, we look at how the Pinpoint Pro™MK1 Massage Gun could be pivotal in the treatment of myofascial pain and bring about myofascial release. We know all too well the many benefits to be had from using this piece of equipment when it comes to massages, and we want you to realise them too.
What is Myofascial Pain and why could Trigger Points be important?
Before we go any further, breaking down the term myofascia can help us to appreciate what we mean by myofascial pain. The myofascia refers to our muscles and the connective tissue surrounding it. The term ‘myo’ refers to the muscles, whilst the ‘fascia’ is concerned with connective tissue. This connective tissue can be found around lots of areas in our bodies, but here we focus on the issues that can occur when it sits close/around our muscles. The myofascia is present all throughout our bodies and this can potentially be problematic in the case of muscle/tissue injury or damage. When problems do occur, myofascial pain may be experienced. Here the normally stretchy properties of the myofascia can become tighter, resulting in pain and muscle tension. It also means that movement may be limited, directly affecting what we can do in our everyday lives.
Trigger points occur in specific areas of our body, where the muscle contracts and shortens. For the purposes of this article, trigger points referred to in this article are present within the myofascia. Trigger point pain can be more complicated thanks to the domino effect these pain points could set in motion – namely that a trigger point in one muscle could end up causing pain in another. This is called ‘referred pain’ and means that any treatment plan should be carefully considered to ensure maximum impact. Concentrating on one area of the body when treating a perceived source of pain is futile if the origin is actually another trigger point in a different location.
In simpler terms, one trigger point can end up causing pain in another area of the body. Let’s imagine you’ve been experiencing neck pain and decide to go for therapy to try and bring about some relief. Once you’ve been treated you head home and a few days later realise that those sore heads you’ve been having have also dissipated. This is probably because a trigger point treated in your neck turned out to be the root of the headache pain, as opposed to the headaches being a separate symptom in and of itself. Although not immediately obvious, in this scenario, pain in one part of your body was having a knock-on effect on another. With our bodies being complex systems, it stands to reason that just as our organs and tissues work together to make things function correctly, the same thing can happen when things go wrong.
What Causes Myofascial and Trigger Point Pain?
As with so many other health ailments, no one element is responsible for the resultant symptoms. Myofascial pain can be the result of a variety of factors, including traumatic impact to the muscle, inflammation and even as a by-product of surgery. It’s also been suggested that myofascial pain may have links with stress, with some patients more at risk of going on to develop certain mental health conditions. With so many of us living with stress on an everyday basis, there’s a real risk of many of us being plagued with myofascial pain at some point in our lives. There’s also the possibility of myofascial trigger points developing which could be due to repetitive movements, inadequate posture (who hasn’t been told at one point to ‘sit up and not slouch’…maybe now you have a very good reason?!), muscle stress and even poor vitamin uptake. There’s likely going to be lots of elements that can cause us physiological pain, so identifying the source can help us to reduce the chance of the same problem happening again. This also demonstrates the problem with classifying myofascial pain and trigger pain points as completely separate afflictions with distinct causes, symptoms and therapies (more on this later).
More about trigger points and potential identification problems ……..
Trigger points are more than just contracted areas of muscle. They are thought to exist in two phases – active and latent. Think of them as having a dual status, each presenting in a different way. Active trigger points tend to be painful and tender to the touch. They can also affect the way and how we move, with pain being concentrated in one specific part or area of our bodies. It’s so important that active trigger points are treated as quickly as possible and in the correct manner. This is the best way to minimise the chance of further trigger points being created and thus the pain spreading throughout the body and being more difficult to control and treat.
Latent trigger points can be thought of as ‘hidden’ and unlikely to cause trouble unless touch/pressure is applied. Latent refers to the idea that they’re always there but not necessarily always a problem. This means that they could remain undetected within the body for long periods of time (sometimes even years). Even more worryingly, they can revert back to being active trigger points under certain conditions, such as further muscle trauma, causing more pain and tension. We like to think of latent trigger points as little ‘myofascial time bombs’, waiting to cause trouble when you least expect it. Sadly the sufferer is therefore also at risk of pain points developing at any time.
Trigger point pain can also be thought of in dual terms when it comes to where the pain is actually coming from in a patient. Trigger point pain can be thought of as being the direct source of painful symptoms, or alternatively as being an additional cause of pain to patients living with other health conditions. Interestingly, there’s a theory that suggests that in some circumstances the trigger points themselves could actually be the cause of pain in certain conditions, rather than pain as a direct consequence of the condition. Realising how trigger points work within our bodies will help to pave the way we treat some of these illnesses as our knowledge and understanding progresses over the years.
If you or your practitioner suspect the presence of trigger points, the next step is trying to figure out where they reside within the body. The question is, how do we do this? Unfortunately, this is where we can run into more problems, namely because methods often used in medical settings cannot be employed for detection. The same can be said for areas of myofascial pain, meaning that techniques like X-rays can’t be used when trying to identify where the source of pain is coming from. We imagine that future research will be instrumental in giving us easier and more reliable methods to detect these ‘pain points’. This may happen sooner rather than later, as MRI scans and some ultrasound techniques have been able to reveal the presence of trigger points in research settings. In any case, it will be interesting to see how methods develop as time goes on.
Myofascial Release and Trigger Point Therapy
We know that any therapy shown to offer pain relief and help with physical rehabilitation is going to be very welcome in cases such as myofascial and trigger point pain. Choosing the right kind of treatment for any health condition is paramount in order to ensure maximum effectiveness and minimise the chance of any adverse effects occurring. Alternative and complementary therapies are rapidly gaining in popularity, and with so many treatments available out there, we know it can seem like a daunting task to have to sit and sift through them all to find the one that’s right for you.
In the case of myofascial pain and trigger point pain, two types of therapies could be employed – myofascial release and trigger point therapy respectively. Earlier on we told you that although closely related, these two therapies should be treated as distinct, even though some people erroneously consider them to be the same (and even use the terms interchangeably in some cases).
Before we start looking at each therapy in turn, we think it could be helpful to understand why there could be confusion with these two treatments…and what the difference actually is! Just like the chicken and the egg scenario, it’s not immediately obvious where to start, but we’re going to try our best as we have to start somewhere. The Myofascia can be found throughout our bodies whilst trigger points can develop in lots of different areas across our bodies too. Trigger points can also arise on the myofascial tissue, so any form of treatment for either condition is going to naturally affect the other. Both treatments also work via the application of pressure, although the type of pressure given is pivotal when it comes to treatment efficacy. Nevertheless, it’s easy to see how both therapies can be mistaken for being very similar, if not the same.
Myofascial release works to help release both pain and tension within the myofascial region in order to restore the stretchy and elasticated properties this type of tissue should normally have. This kind of treatment uses softer pressure along with stretching techniques as a means to help reduce and release myofascial pain and tension. Myofascial release can also help to encourage and restore any movement that may have previously been lost. It requires direct contact between the massage therapist and patient, although without the use of any ‘lotions and potions’. There’s a very good reason for this too. The absence of any barrier between the therapist and the patient allows for more control – the masseuse can be more in tune during the treatment and can work on areas deep-rooted within our bodies. Using any kind of oils or creams could create a superficial layer that may make it more difficult for a therapist to target the areas needing treatment.
It’s important to make sure that the correct pressure is used during treatment. There’s a fine line between using the right amount of pressure and potentially using too much that would end up causing unintentional harm to surface tissue. This is why any practitioner you choose to carry out myofascial release is so important and will directly impact on the resultant effectiveness of treatment. As always, we would advise you to choose a well-trained and qualified practitioner – it’s the best way to ensure your treatment has the required effects, and acts as your metaphorical insurance against things going wrong too.
Trigger point therapy does what it says on the tin…acting on the trigger point itself where the muscle has contracted. The therapist will focus on these trigger points themselves, rather than working on a general area of the body. This then allows the trigger point to ease, whilst also removing any associated pain. Trigger point therapy also uses pressure as a means of treatment, although pressure used here is often firmer and works on a ‘sliding scale’. The amount of pressure given will intensify until the trigger point itself starts to relax. This may be carried out in conjunction with specific breathing techniques to allow the therapist to identify where the trigger point is before using any form of pressure. As with myofascial release, choosing the right therapist to carry out trigger point therapy is critical.
Both myofascial release and trigger point therapy should help to stop pain and help improve the quality of life of the patient. In fact, there’s also the option to use myofascial release and trigger point therapy together. Both treatments perfectly complement each other and could help to enhance the effects of therapy. Speak to your therapist about combining both treatments to achieve your desired effect.
Myofascial Release and the Pinpoint Pro™ MK1 Massage Gun
Have you considered using a Pinpoint Pro™ MK1 Massage Gun to help you combat myofascial pain? Earlier on we told you that one potential contributing factor to this particular condition was stress, and we know that sometimes finding the right therapist for you can be almost as stressful as dealing with whatever pain you’re wanting relief from! Finding a qualified therapist trained in using our massage gun helps you focus your search when looking for treatment, and also helps you ensure you get the most from your treatment. Our massage gun has been specially designed to target body tissues and help with pain relief, with pressure pulses working to reach the areas they need to with pinpoint accuracy (it’s more than just a name)! Other benefits include relief from pain, improved blood flow and mobility too.
Our Pinpoint Pro™ MK1 Massage Gun is also incredibly user friendly, so if you’re thinking about self-treating this could be the solution for you. It’s aimed at everybody rather than just sports professionals and enthusiasts – if you’ve got a muscle ache or bodily tension this is likely going to be a good option for you. Even better, the Pinpoint Pro™MK1 Massage Gun has 5 settings with one that’s ideal for bringing about myofascial release (1900 RPM). This setting will help with relief from tightness and pressure, helping to reduce muscle pain and tension. Whatever way you choose to use your massage gun, please do send us a message to find out more and we’ll do our best to help.