Trigger Point Release Protocols

July 16th, 2014 by Laura

Trigger points, also known as trigger sites or muscle knots, are described as hyperirritable spots in skeletal muscle that are associated with palpable nodules in taut bands of muscle fibers.

Trigger points cause pain and they hinder performance. Muscles with trigger points fatigue more easily, stay contracted longer and are weaker than healthy muscles. The decreased range of motion and weakness can also be present in muscles used to maintain body posture.

Unlike mobility work and stretching, working on trigger points won’t encourage your body to lose connection to its normal ranges of motion if you are lax.

Deep Stroking Massage
Make stokes with thumbs/fingers across trigger point.
Intermittent pain might allow you to go a little deeper since the pain is off and on.
Deep stroking massage incorporates a bit of muscle lengthening directly on trigger point with each stroke.

Ischemic Compression
Press and hold until the area releases (static pressure).

The method that has been working well for me for most areas is to put heavy pressure on the trigger point and ‘sink in to the stab’, breathing through discomfort and gently rocking intermittently until the pain dissipates.

Most sources recommend anywhere between 10 seconds and a minute. 3-5 minutes is the usual recommended limit for working on a trigger point. If it has not released by then, move on to the next.

I’m guilty of assaulting trigger points for way longer than that. It made me very sore and bruised.

When you release a trigger point, it takes some time for the chemistry around the point to change. During this time, all of the unpleasantries relating to the point might come to surface. To minimize this, a gentle massage around the released point and all neighboring muscles is recommended. If you don’t massage afterward, the worst that happens is that you experience lingering inflammation for a few days at most. A good release for me is usually followed by the trigger point area feeling like ‘glass shards’ along with some limpness.

The tenderness during this time *could* affect performance so a big annihilation of trigger points might not be the best idea before a competition or an important training day.

Immediately following a release, it is recommended to briefly lengthen the muscle with a gentle stretch. Many sources also agree that after the release and lengthening, immediately put the muscle to work with a strengthening movement.

I have to remember to try to get in and see my masseuse once per month. By working on my trigger points at home, I am able to get much more out of my massage appointments. She can give more attention to the trigger points that are more difficult to release on my own.

A helpful technique ahe showed me is a pre-workout workout circulation massage for the anterior thigh. You grab the muscle and pull it off the bone in very quick, deep and aggressive alternating strokes, moving up and down the leg (no oil is used).



Hip & Thigh Trigger Points

Lower Leg Trigger Points