What are Trigger Points? How Can I Manage Them?
Have you ever accidentally pulled something in your low back after reaching down to pick something up quickly? How about getting a kink in your neck after sitting improperly for a long period of time? In many instances, these reactions happen and are commonly known as “trigger points.”
So, what are trigger points? In medicine, a trigger point is defined as a sensitive area of your body which when stimulated causes a reaction to occur in another part. One of the most common effects of trigger points is pain in your soft tissues – like muscles, for example.
To illustrate this concept, here’s a few different scenarios:
- A trigger point in your elbow may cause your wrist to weaken and become sore to use
- A trigger point in your upper trap muscle may cause a headache behind your ear
- A trigger point in your shoulder may cause pain in the soft tissues of your abdomen near your ribs
These are just a few trigger points people experience. Persistent pain and reduced movement in the affected muscle are commonly reported by patients.
Trigger points can happen within any muscle of the body, but the most common is in the neck and head areas where people who are “triggered” often experience other symptoms such as jaw pain, eye pain and ringing in the ear.
- Also see these 10 Tips for a Healthy Back… from a Chiropractor
Causes of trigger points
- An injury from the past
- A recent injury
- Bad posture over long periods of time
- Lack of exercise
- Repetitive stresses experienced at work or during play
- Vitamin & mineral deficiencies
Ways of managing trigger points
- Chiropractic care
- Massage therapy
- Cold laser therapy
- Intramuscular stimulation
- Ultrasound therapy
- Electrical stimulation
- Spinal decompression therapy
- Soft tissue therapy
- Exercise & leading a healthy lifestyle
- Nutrition & supplementation
What can you do to prevent and reduce trigger point symptoms?
#1 – Sleep well
Sleep is extremely important to allow your body to recover after a full day of activities. Try to get anywhere between 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night, and if possible, keep a regimented sleep schedule where you’re going to bed and waking up around the same time every day.
#2 – Be mindful of posture
Posture is a common cause of trigger points for many people. Sitting with a slouched back or lifting weights with bad technique at the gym can have negative long-term impacts on your health and cause trigger points to surface in a moments notice.
#3 – Watch what you eat
Eating unhealthy can have a huge affect on trigger points in your body. Too much sugar and carbs can have an acidifying affect on your body, weakening ligaments and joints to a point where they may become “triggered.”
#4 – Exercise regularly
It’s no secret that exercise is good for your health. Doing so regularly might just keep those trigger points away as you keep your body in shape.
#5 – Stretching regularly
Stretching goes hand-in-hand with exercise. If you aren’t working out at all, however, it can be good on its own for preventing trigger points and helping to get rid of any symptoms after they surface. Here’s some stretches Dr. Keith has demonstrated for patients at Revelation Health:
- How to: Cat-Cow Yoga Stretch [Video]
- How to: Foam Roll Your Legs Using a Roller [Video]
- How to: Low Back Stretch for the Lumbar Para-spinal Muscles [Video]
Trigger points do happen, but they are totally preventable! With increased awareness of their causes and how you can manage, you should be able to go about your daily routine without having to worry about flare ups.
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We are looking forward to helping you accomplish your personal health goals!