After years of experience as a client followed by over a year of studying the benefits specific to Trigger Point Therapy, I'm convinced it is the #1 most beneficial form of immediate pain relief offered in Massage Therapy.
Of course, that statement is only my opinion and a lot of other Massage Therapists might disagree based on their own experience. Having said that, I've been looking through the notes on every client I've seen and it's clear that at least in my facility, Trigger Point Release has been responsible for the vast majority of clients being able to get off the table with an immediate sense of relief from pain in a specific area of the body as well as having a considerable increase in range of motion.
What is a Trigger Point?
The Mayo Clinic gives this basic description: "tight muscle fibers that can form in your muscles after injuries or overuse". A "Knot", as most people would say. When I describe Trigger Points to clients, I tend to go into a little more detail if they're unfamiliar with the term. If you imagine your "Traps" (the muscles you use when you shrug your shoulders), most of us have had an instance when we do something that causes that big knot to form after we've overdone some activity. When we shrug our shoulders for a second, the entire muscles contracts. That Trigger Point that causes the pain is a result of part of that muscle remaining contracted long after we've stopped shrugging our shoulders. Because of this constant contraction, the entire muscle begins to function poorly during our normal activities and this is when the pain, stiffness, and lack of motion take over.
Trigger Points are located in many areas of the body and are not just in our shoulders. Often times, they are not even painful enough for us to think about them even though they are causing us to move about with less range of motion. Pain or not, they can be a problem.
About Trigger Point Therapy:
Trigger Point Therapy is a set of techniques that allows a Massage Therapist to locate and apply pressure to these areas in a specific way, causing them to "release" partially or entirely. It's a simple, manual technique and it's not even terribly time consuming. I have many clients who book 30 minute sessions simply to have these areas routinely worked on and in nearly every case, they report great relief by the time they are walking out the door!
What Trigger Point Therapy is Knot:
Work with Trigger Points is not a form of Energy Work and while meditation might certainly help a client relax during the work, it is not an essential aspect.
Also, Trigger Point work is not terrifically painful. First time clients for this are always a little nervous at the start; expecting it to be very painful before the relief begins. This work does not have to be very painful and this has much to do with the Massage Therapist's ability to work delicately. Granted, there are different schools of thought on this and some therapists do believe in working with a heavy hand. Personally, I prefer to operate well within the client's pain tolerance-even if it were to require a second session to fully help. In Massage Therapy, allowing excessive amounts of pain simply overloads the nervous system and makes the whole body tense up. It's counterproductive, in my opinion.
Why It's a Winner:
Trigger Point Release Techniques are fast, reliable, consistent, and highly beneficial for responding to situations where a client has developed that classic "knot" following an activity. Holding a phone against your shoulder for too long, turning the wrong way while getting out of bed, and walking to your car with a child on one hip are routine ways I see these this problem develop.
Massage Therapy often struggles to compete with many alternatives for pain relief simply because it tends to be a time consuming commitment for the client. When people think "Massage", they generally think of an hour of relaxation and often this doesn't suit busy people. My point is that once we have an idea of which areas are involved, the simple process of providing relief to them can be done in mere minutes! When I look through the notes from my sessions, those "knots" (Trigger Points) are a predominant factor in visits, and when I perform work on Trigger Points, clients report the most relief as compared to every other technique I commonly use.
I'd encourage anyone who reads this to ask your Massage Therapist about working on Trigger Points when seeking relief from specific pain. It may not be the answer "every time", but I'm finding it's the answer the "most times".