We all get aches and pains from time to time but sometimes these aches and pains hang around. Muscles that are chronically stiff, tight, achey, or weak can cause ongoing pain . Unfortunately, many health professionals do not know how to deal with this type of pain. Muscle pain remains a mystery to many in the health industry. Medication, stretching and general massage rarely help.
So, what's going on?
Myofascial Pain Syndrome - caused by trigger points (muscle knots) in your muscles. We have all experienced muscle tension, and if you've been treated at the clinic; you would have had some of your trigger points tackled! You would know that they are very tender to touch and often refer pain to other, random areas of the body. An active trigger point, when treated can mimic the ongoing pain you have been experiencing. The pain from trigger points does not seem to get better; it's always there, niggling in the background.
So what are these trigger points?
The research is still out on the exact theory behind trigger points but in simple terms, they are a small patch of contracted muscle, almost like a cramp. They have a poor blood supply causing a build-up of waste products around the area. They can be vicious, causing terrible pain; they can be responsible for headaches and migraines along with low back pain. They can also mimic other conditions, including bursitis, shin splints, RSI, toothache and many other chronic conditions.
Dull, aching, nagging pain.
Unusually sensitive spots in muscle tissue.
Particularly tight bands or straps of muscles adjacent to sensitive spots.
Muscular weakness, a “dead/heavy” feeling.
Stiff, tight, inflexible musculature.
Heat tends to help. Ice does not.
Usually aggravated by exertion and by being still for a long time (sitting at a desk, in a car or plane)
What causes them?
Often repetitive actions, including repeated job actions (computer work, sitting, lifting). They are also common after injury, and during stress and anxiety when the body is held in a position for an extended period of time.
How do you get rid of them?
They are persistent little things and can hang around for years. You can treat your trigger points yourself if you know what you are doing, or you can see a therapist skilled in trigger point therapy. I often show my patients how to release certain trigger points themselves that they can then treat away from the clinic.
Before you head to the doctor with ongoing muscle pain and go down the road of medical intervention, it is always worth trying trigger point therapy. Your therapist will be trained to detect if something more sinister is occurring and will refer you onto a medical specialist if required.