• Shelly N

What's that Pain?

How many times have you felt a pain that you just don't understand the why? You didn't have an accident, you didn't fall, you haven't been working out, you can't think of any reason for this pain. A lot of people just attribute random aches and pains to getting older and that is not necessarily true. Trigger points are most likely the culprit. Trigger points are hypersensitive spots that develop where the nerve enters the muscle. When a muscle is being overused that nerve is constantly firing and small micro-contraction develops. When that muscle is tight and compresses that spot, it will send pain to a different area...this is known as referred pain. So, when you are working overtime on the computer and find yourself hunched over the keyboard, your levator scapulae is being constantly contracted. You are tired and you go to bed after your long day and you wake up with a stiff neck...so stiff you can barely turn it to one side without

Levator Scapulae trigger points (x) and referred pain pattern (red )

excruciating pain. You think to yourself, "Great! Now I'm hurting myself while I sleep?!?" In actuality, your levator scapulae contracted as it wasn't being used and compressed the trigger points that have developed from constant overuse. Trigger points also make a muscle weak and cannot contract or release fully...that is why you are unable to turn your neck without pain.


Another example of common pain is in the hip and/or down the leg. Oftentimes, this is self-diagnosed as Sciatica. Sciatica refers to pain that radiates along the path of the sciatic nerve, which branches from your lower back through your hips and buttocks and down each leg. Typically, sciatica affects only one side of your body. However, if you have not been in an accident or have actual nerve compression that is diagnosed by your doctor thru an MRI, you are again suffering from the dreaded trigger point!

Trigger points in the hips, in the Gluteus Minimus refer pain deep in the hip and down the outside of the leg. When active trigger points are present you will have pain and difficulty getting up out of a chair or standing up straight, when seated for long periods of time as in a car, watching TV or working at a computer.


Trigger points are complex. They can take years to develop to the point where the pain is suddenly unbearable. Up to that point, you might have taken ibuprofen, done some stretching, or just gotten used to the pain. And, then, one day, it just becomes too much...another reason it is difficult to understand what you did to make that pain suddenly appear. Trigger points are more commonly going to appear in weaker muscle tissue that is being constantly overused. The stronger the muscle tissue, the less likely you are to develop trigger points. Once you understand why you developed the trigger point that is causing you pain, you can strengthen that muscle and change your behavior that led to it in the first place. For example, a trigger point in your neck from constantly turning your head to the left might be determined because your computer monitor is to the left of your keyboard. You can then eliminate that cause by moving your monitor to above your keyboard so you are looking straight while working. Trigger points are commonly the cause for many aches and pains that you might think you just have to live with such as carpal tunnel symptoms, migraines, tennis elbow, bursitis, stiff neck, deep pain under your shoulder blade, hip/low back pain and plantar fasciitis. Seeking out a trained and licensed massage therapist that can tackle these trigger points can reduce your pain, increase your range of motion, help decrease pain medications if possible, and save you from unnecessary surgery.

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