Myofascial Trigger Point Acupuncture
Myofascial refers to muscle and fascia (connective tissue) and myofascial pain arises due to trigger points. 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 often cause pain of unexplained origin that can radiate from these points of local tenderness to other areas. Trigger points can influence muscle activation patterns, which can result in poorer muscle coordination and balance. These taut bands can subsequently pull on tendons and ligaments causing deep joint pain or a pain referral pattern along a nerve pathway, which can activate other trigger points or create new ones. Very commonly, this referral pattern can lead to misdiagnoses, as trigger points mimic a long list of symptoms associated with common injuries and maladies. This is particularly important for athletes, as a perceived injury may be nothing more than an easily treated trigger point.
What causes trigger points?
Trigger points may arise due to acute or chronic muscle overload, activation by other trigger points, disease, psychological distress, direct trauma to the region, nerve pain or infections. The issues of acute or chronic muscle overload, trauma and psychological stress are all very pertinent to athletes as potential causes. Identifying trigger points will not only allow for treatment, but may identify problems in training or psychological distress that has been overlooked, allowing it to be addressed, removing the underlying cause of trigger point formation.
Why should athletes know about trigger points?
Athletes can benefit from exploring trigger points in order to optimize their muscle functionality and to minimize injury. Unexplained pain or injuries that are not responding to conventional therapy may benefit from trigger point therapy.
Trigger points are identified by palpating the area of pain for a discrete, irritable point in skeletal muscle, twitch response and reproducible pain/radiation pattern. Acupuncture needles and electrostimulation are then used to release the trigger point. This is a far less painful technique than many manual release therapies. This acupuncture technique will also aid in reducing myofascial tension, elongating and resolving strain patterns. Additionally, lengthening of the affected muscles along their natural range of motion is critical to preventing recurrence.