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Trigger point therapy

August 30, 2013

What is trigger point therapy and how does it help people live better lives?

Trigger point therapy is usually a localized massage technique. Trigger points is a catchall phrase for a spot in a muscle that causes pain. It can be a knot of cramped muscle tissue or a pocket of muscle waste material. Either way, the theory is that the trigger point restricts blood flow and starves the area of essential nutrients, resulting in pain.

In a very real way, trigger points and trigger point therapy are a scientific gray area. One of the reasons for this is that there is no scientific specialty that focuses on muscle pain. The closest thing to a discipline that studies the causes of and the ways of relieving muscle pain would be a massage therapist (or possibly a well rounded Chiropractor). Since muscle pain is subjective and all but impossible to measure, scientists have a very difficult task in creating theory on the subject. As the placebo effect can skew results of an already hazy and extremely personal issue, hard data is nonexistent.

Those who believe in trigger point therapy believe that there are spots on the body where these trigger points are likely to occur and that correspond to pain in nearby areas. There is great precedent for this belief as treatments like reflexology and acupuncture have had a vast following for a very long time. The trigger point therapist will operate by providing light massage to the trigger point that he or she believes to be causing the pain. While it sounds like quackery at its finest, even heading to a medical doctor for the pain will often result in that doctor injecting muscle relaxant into the same trigger point area that the therapist would have massaged.

Is trigger point therapy for real? Is it just new age mysticism? The jury is still out. Like many other non-medical treatments, there are those who believe it is a lights and mirror show to fleece gullible people in pain and there are those who have undergone the treatment and swear by its effectiveness. Whichever camp an individual falls in, there is one thing on which virtually everyone agrees: Since it is noninvasive and usually quite gentle, it is all but impossible for trigger point therapy to actually hurt someone, even if it does not help. This makes it something people can be comfortable trying for themselves as opposed to many medicines that have a definite effect, but the effect can be massively negative.

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