Self Treatment for Painful Trigger Points

Muscle Fiber with Trigger Points

Recently I’ve found myself plagued by “golfer’s elbow.” This is like tennis elbow but on the inside of the arm instead of the outside. If you’ve ever had either you know what a pain it is. Being me of course I am self-treating it with trigger point therapy.

The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook by Clair Davies, Amber Davies and David G. Simon is amazing for finding out the cause of what ails you and treating it.  The basic concept is that there are little bundles of muscle tissue become contracted into tiny hypersensitive areas that may not hurt themselves but can send pain to other places. They map that all out for you with helpful pictures. I’ve had this problem before with referred pain. To me it makes complete sense that the place that’s hurting may be a symptom and not the cause. I’ve experienced this with for example leg pain that actually emanates from a “crunchy” place in my lower back. I am still grateful to the first person that figured out that one for me, a massage therapist. To treat these crunchy places I use a combination of tools.

One of my favorites is a little orange ball with nubs on it called the Stress Buster Massage Ball. If you are looking for one know that it has to be fairly firm to actually make a difference. A tennis ball also works some but I really like the nubbiness for getting to those little knots. You can roll the ball on your back against a wall and get a pretty nice massage on tense areas. For my arm that I am working on lately I use the kitchen counter.

The book makes the point that most health professionals don’t think of pain in this way. The ones who do are typically people who understand the body and won’t suggest you medicate away the symptom but rather figure out its source and start working on it. Masssage therapists that practice myofascial release will understand this. What’s best about the book is that it is written with the goal of self treatment in mind. How many of us really have both the time and the money to get a series of massages when something hurts? I know I don’t.


Things Aren’t Always What They Seem

Rumble Roller

Rumble Roller

A couple of summers ago I was letting an arm injury heal and found myself doing run/walk intervals and core work as a way to work out. One thing I noticed at the time is that my knees were killing me after running; and we’re not even talking about “running running” here but rather like 1 minute running followed by 2 minutes of walking repeated.  When I finally sought a consultation on my arm from a sports medicine physician I thought I’d get a ruling on my knees at the same time. I was pleased to find out there wasn’t really much of anything wrong with them for a person my age. The feedback I received is that my problem, rather than being anything intrinsic to my knees, had more to do with a lack of core strength; that is, it had more to do with my gait than my knees.

Since this experience I do think about whether aches and pains are signs of injury or secondary symptoms of other problems. Recently a few issues seem to be cropping up that are a result of muscle tightness in my legs and hips. I am here to report that the imperative to stretch apparently is greater as we age. I’ve always been a tense person and held a lot of tension in my shoulders etc. but the advent of low body tightness is new.

In her book The Female Body Breakthrough, Rachel Cosgrove recommends using a foam roller regularly; in particular on days one is not working out. I have a scary one called a Rumble Roller.  It really is like getting a deep tissue massage–sort of. Something I know I should do and don’t is to foam roll more; ideally every day I don’t work out.  As it is I only stretch when I work out so if working out gets disrupted so does stretching. Not helpful.