My back has been a constant source of pain for me since high school. Despite visits to the chiropractor, physical therapy and regular exercise I could not find a lasting relief.
One day I finally stumbled upon the life-changing form of exercise – Pilates. I learned how to properly strengthen my core and improve my body mechanics. I could sit for long hours behind the computer without having this agonizing dull pain in my back. I proceeded to become a Pilates instructor and became vigilant about my personal workouts. Everything was going great. I thought I was finally free from pain and discomfort.
And then I became pregnant … with the twins. Despite my almost rock-solid core this pregnancy and later caring for my young twins took a toll on me. I did not have as much time for workouts (shocking, isn’t it?) and my back pain came back with vengeance.
One of my Pilates clients was a massage therapist and she offered to see me. The massage that she gave me was very different from anything that I’ve had in the past. Those were not gentle strokes and kneading that I had experienced before. She would find a spot in the muscle and apply direct pressure to it that at first almost made me cry but after just a couple of seconds gave me a huge release. After the session was over I felt that somebody has just pressed a “restart” button in my body and all the pains and aches were gone.
That was the first time that I have experienced and heard about Myofascial Trigger Point Release.
After several sessions I noticed that I did not just feel better, I could actually perform a lot of the exercises better because I had more power and greater range of motion. However, regular massage sessions were getting pricey so my friend recommended that I order several books that will teach me how to do trigger point release on my own.
That was the beginning of my journey towards health and wellness. I felt that I finally found the Missing Link that has helped me and, since then, many of my Pilates clients to get rid of the lifestyle-induced muscle pains, tightness and muscular weakness. By combining Self Myofascial Trigger Point release and Pilates I had all the tools to keep my body strong and feeling great.
My personal story, exciting as it is (*smile*), is not a scientific proof of the efficacy of Trigger Point Release. Below you can find a complete list of Trigger Point Release benefits proven by modern research.
9 Benefits of Myofascial Trigger Point Release that Will Surprise You
#1. Decreased pain
Trigger Points can cause a lot of trouble in the body. As discussed before in the interview with Marty Kestin trigger points usually refer pain to a “remote” location in the body and can mimic various conditions like bursitis, tendonitis, even migraines and heart attack. Self-massage combined with a regular exercise program have proven to provide the best pain reduction results in people with myofascial pain dysfunction syndrome (study link).
#2. Fewer headaches
Many trigger points are located in the neck and upper back area cause frequent headaches. Simple release techniques done on a daily basis will help you eliminate these trigger points from your muscles.
#3. Improved range of motion
#4. Better warmup
– For a long time static stretching used to be recommended as an effective injury prevention technique pre workout. Recent studies show that pre-workout static stretching actually inhibits muscle performance. Self Myofascial release is a more effective warm-up routine especially if combined with dynamic stretching.
Your muscles have two major receptors. One is your muscle spindle, which makes the muscle contract. The other is called the Golgi tendon organ, which makes the muscle relax. “They both should be in balance with one another, which allows the tissue to work without getting injured,” says Dr. Mike Clark, CEO of the National Academy of Sports Medicine. If you have any muscular imbalances, and all you do to warm up is dynamic or static movements, your body will be continuously compensating for your problem spots, Clark cautions. “Stretching stimulates the muscle spindle and makes it more overactive. Deep pressure stimulates the Golgi tendon organ, which then overrides the muscle spindle, which allows the tissue to relax, which prepares it for stretching,” Clark says. Self Myofascial Release before stretching and exercising is like taking the parking brake off before you start driving your car (study link.)
#5. Improved flexibility
– Trigger Points by nature make the muscle tight and weak. It loses its normal function and every attempt to stretch it will result in pain. Things change dramatically if we first release the trigger point and then stretch the muscle – that’s how we can improve flexibility in tight areas.
#6. Better posture
– self massage using Trigger Point Release techniques will help you release tight muscles that could have negatively affected your posture. Once those TP’s are identified and taken care of you can use Pilates to build your core strength and improve your posture.
#7. Reduced muscle soreness post workout.
Release of the trigger points aids in removal of metabolic waste products from the muscle as well as overall improvement of blood circulation. In a normal language it means that you will be hurting less after your next workout.
#8. Increased blood flow and tissue hydration.
When we apply pressure to the soft tissue (skin, fascia, muscle) the water is squeezed out of the tissues, and then is sucked back in when the pressure moves on or is taken away. It’s like squeezing a sponge over the sink and then letting it fill again while doing the pots and pans. Recent study suggests that this form of self massage improves the elasticity of the arteries that results in better blood circulation.
Trigger Points create congestion spots in the muscle (like traffic jams that keep oxygen and nutrients from reaching their destination) and when we release them we open up the “highways.” Now our muscle cells can get all the nutrition that they need to function and perform all their daily tasks.
#9. Calming effect on the nervous system.
Most people will agree that massage is a very relaxing experience. If you’ve ever done Self Myofascial Release the wrong way then you will have a very different opinion. Rolling in a way that causes so much pain that you are grinding your teeth and barely holding the tears back is usually a bad sign. It causes muscle contraction and cellular retraction that makes a tight spot only tighter. Bruising and extreme pain are a sign of damage, not of healing.
You know that you are doing your Trigger Point Release right if you stay in the ‘hedonic point’ (poised between pleasure and pain). The pain level should be around 3-5 (where 0 is no pain at all and 10 is intolerable pain.) After you finish your self massage session you will feel refreshed and relaxed. You can reduce the effects of daily stress by treating this session as the time to slow down, focus on your breathing and connect with your body.
Learn the Trigger Point Release Technique
It took me some time to learn how to locate and release Trigger Points in my body. I found the book The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook by Clair Davies (aff Amazon link) to be my bible in exploring the body, it’s a great manual for everyone who is interested in trigger point release techniques. I have also discovered that virtually anyone has trigger points in some of the most used and abused muscles of the body: back muscles, trapezius, hamstrings, quads (ouch!) etc.
Adding simple trigger point release techniques to a Pilates session or any other workout is a great way to maximize the potential of the body. These techniques are more precise and effective than the already-familiar foam rolling. In order to help you learn these techniques and apply them to your personal practice or teaching PilatesBridge is releasing a new PRO guide: Myofascial Trigger Point Release Guide that is available for download for all PRO members of PilatesBridge. The guide is based on the usage of sFera Pro Therapy Massage Balls (aff Amazon link) that are endorsed by PilatesBridge but the same techniques can be used with other types of massage balls that you already have at home or at your studio.