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Trigger Point Therapy

What is Trigger Point Therapy?

Trigger point therapy is a bodywork technique that involves the application of pressure to tender muscle tissue in order to relieve pain and dysfunction in other parts of the body.  Trigger point therapy was developed by Dr. Janet Travell in the United States in the 1940s; she is credited with having first used the phrase "trigger point" in print in 1942.  Through her work and events in her personal life, Travell advanced the theory that pain experienced in one part of the body is actually caused by an injury or dysfunction in another part of the body.  Ultimately, she mapped what she termed the body's trigger points and the manner in which pain radiates to the rest of the body.

Trigger points are thought to result from a variety of causes, including birth trauma, hypoglycemia, vitamin B6 deficiency, food allergies, traumatic injuries, poor posture, skeletal asymmetry, overexertion, or such disease of the digestive tract as ulcers and irritable bowel syndrome.  During times of physical or emotional stress, the points cause muscles to spasm. Travell's therapy called for the injection of saline (a salt solution) and procaine (also known as Novocaine, an anesthetic) into the trigger point.  The injections can only be administered by a medical doctor.  Although beneficial in the relief of pain, for some people the injections are a painful procedure.

In the 1970s, Bonnie Prudden, a physical fitness and exercise therapist, found that applying sustained pressure to a trigger point also relieved pain.  Prudden developed her techniques over a number of years and called the treatments myotherapy. Myotherapy is beneficial to patients who find that trigger point injections are too painful or as an adjunct to trigger point injections.

What are the benefits of Trigger Point Therapy?

Trigger point therapy is said to interrupt the neural signals that cause both the trigger point and the pain.  The object is to eliminate pain and to reeducate the muscles into pain-free habits. In this manner, the swelling and stiffness of neuromuscular pain is reduced, range of motion is increased, and flexibility and coordination are improved. The therapy can also relieve tension and improve circulation.

How is Myotherapy Performed?

At A Different Approach - PT for Women (ADAPT), your physical therapist will palpate the area of the coordinating trigger point.  Once the point is found, your therapist will apply sustained pressure using the fingers, knuckles, or elbows for several seconds.  Pain relief is often experienced immediately. Following the pressure treatment, your therapist will then gently stretch the muscles of the trigger point.

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