Knots, trigger points and super tight muscles…Part 14 of the grumbly muscle blog…
I’m often asked what a trigger point is? How do you know a particular area hurts and why do muscles get tight and go into spasm, so I thought I’d do come research to help answer those questions. I’ve broken it down into a few blogs so it’s not information overload or too boring…
What are Trigger points?
A small palpable hypersensitive area within the bands of the muscle, which means for me there is a different ‘feel’ to that area of the muscle and they can be either ‘active or latent’.
The reason a trigger point is palpable is because its an area where the muscle fibers (called sarcomeres) shorten and create a ‘contraction knot’, this is where the term ‘knot’ comes from.
If they are active, when you hit that ‘spot’ it can sometimes catch the client unawares and make them jump (jump sign).
Pain can be ‘referred’ to a different area other than where the trigger point is situated. Muscles have specific patterns of referred pain, it’s not random.
Trigger points can refer pain at any time annoyingly…
A latent trigger point means it’s there, and I can feel it but it’s neither causing or referring pain at that moment, however, it can contribute to the stiffness of a muscle.
We all have trigger points all over our bodies, even children do, but they only cause occasional pain.
Trigger points most commonly develop in the myofascia (the superficial part of the muscle where it is covered by a connective tissue called fascia) of the muscle belly which is you have ‘motor end-plates’; essentially where the end of the nerve (there are many in each muscle) innervates (fires) that bit particular of the muscle.
They are between 2-10mm in size according to anatomists. You can, however, occasionally get them on the attachment of muscles and even ligaments…
As yet, we don’t truly know why trigger points develop, there are
many theories, but they lack sufficient evidence to support them, so I won’t bore you with them for now.
Trigger points can become active when triggered by;
- A build-up of waste products from muscle use i.e. lactic acid and increased pH levels
- Mechanical factors, for instance physical trauma
- A particularly hard or unaccustomed training session
- Holding uncomfortable positions; driving a van or sat at a desk for long periods of time.
- Stress and tension can aggravate and activate trigger points as well.
- Age can also increase the likelihood of them becoming active
- Overuse of the muscle, and indeed under use (no exercise),
- Lack of sleep
- Joint dysfunction
- Vitamin deficiencies including vitamin B, C, D, iron and folic acid.
The trigger point itself can also cause inflammation and oedema (swelling) in the local area increasing discomfort.
If there are multiple active trigger points in a muscle its known as myofascial pain syndrome.
The painfully tight muscles blog will be published tomorrow.