You can perform effective trigger point therapy with chiropractic instruments.
The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) reports that approximately one in ten people in the United States—which equates to roughly 23 million in total—struggle with at least one chronic musculoskeletal disorder, if not more. The AAFP further states that these types of disorders are often accompanied by painful trigger points.
Trigger point formation
The National Association of Myofascial Trigger Point Therapists (NAMTPT) advises that stress and injury are the two major culprits behind trigger point formation. In addition to direct injury to the affected area, other common causes of these “contracted knots” include repetitive overuse injuries, sustained loading, poor posture, clenching muscles when stressed, and prolonged inactivity.
The number and location of trigger points can vary from person to person, but one thing is clear. When a patient experiences the pain associated with these knotted muscles, an effective pain-relieving chiropractic option is trigger point therapy
Trigger point therapy benefits
Rachel Girrens, DC and owner and operator of ICT Muscle & Joint Clinic, a chiropractic and rehabilitative treatment clinic, explains that, “because soft tissue is interconnected throughout the body by fascia, a trigger point in one area can cause pain or symptoms in other areas too. Releasing these trigger points can provide pain and symptom relief at the site of the trigger point and in turn in the other areas affected.”
For example, one study published in BMC Medicine in January of 2011 involved 52 individuals with shoulder pain caused by myofascial trigger points. Some of the participants were subjected to trigger point treatment, the remainder assigned to a control. After 12 weeks, 55 percent of the participants involved in active treatment protocol reported improvement in their level of pain, whereas only 14 percent of the control group could say the same.
Another benefit of engaging in trigger point therapy is ease of movement says Girrens. “When the muscle or soft tissue is allowed to function without the ‘knot,’ a person can notice easier movement or increased ROM.” This same study confirms this, indicating that the intervention group “showed significant improvement” in disabilities related to their arm, shoulder, and hand.
Using instruments provides additional advantages
When it comes to treating trigger point issues, Girrens advises that the use of instruments can often help. “The advantage of instruments is that it provides a mechanical advantage for the clinician,” says Girrens. “It is easier on the hands and thumbs, and it can provide multiple different edges depending on the shape of the tool.”
“These instruments are great for providing feedback of the patient’s tissue quality,” adds Girrens. Essentially, they allow you to determine the extent of the damage, giving you a better idea of how to best treat the affected area.
“Another instrument that can be used is a solid, filiform needle (commonly used in acupuncture) or ‘dry needling,’” says Girrens. “These needles can be used to affect the trigger point directly instead of through the skin surface.” Several studies have confirmed this as well, such as one piece of research published in the Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy in September of 2013 which concluded that “dry needling can be effective in providing pain relief.”
“Both of these trigger point techniques using instruments have the same goal of creating inflammation in the area so that the body can re-heal with better-quality tissue,” explains Girrens. However, she also suggests the use of rehabilitation exercises to supplement trigger point therapy “to retrain the brain how to move correctly without those trigger points present and to prevent future trigger points from being laid down.”