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Trigger Points vs Knots


Image showing where the trigger point is and where the pain radiates to.
In this image, X marks the trigger point, while red shows the affected pattern for each trigger point.

Trigger Point Therapy is one of my favorite massage modalities to address and reduce soft tissue pain.  But what are Trigger Points and why should this matter to you?

The technical definition of a trigger point is a sensitive area within a taut band of muscle tissue.  They are usually located within a defined area of muscle, meaning that unlike general knot or tender spots, which can pop up anywhere, Trigger Points appear in known locations throughout the body.

While a knot can cause issues for the muscles involved, Trigger points have patterns all over the body and can create pain, numbness, tingling, loss of range of motion and weakness. A trigger point in the front of the neck can cause forearm pain or partial hand numbness.

Left untreated, other muscles will have to compensate for the limited muscle and new movement patterns will develop, creating compounded issues.

So yes, trigger points are very important.  We all have latent (dormant) trigger points. Many things can cause one to activate. Most involve injury or stress to the body and nervous system.   Dr. Janet Travell is the physician we credit with most of our current Trigger Point knowledge.  She Co-Authored the books all professionals use when addressing them.  She focused on various treatment methods including spray and stretch, needling, and injections.

 Massage Therapists and Physical Therapists have long used varying manual techniques. The most common is to apply steady pressure directly on the trigger point and periodically increase the pressure as the discomfort from the trigger point eases.  This is effective but can be uncomfortable and sometimes extremely time-consuming; limiting the amount of work we can do in a session.

In 2008 I attended a series of workshops taught by Stewart Walker, who developed a method of addressing trigger points called Taut Band Therapy.  I connected deeply with the work and determined to learn as much as I could. Taut Band therapy remains my preferred method of assessing and treating trigger points.

The beauty of taut band therapy to the client is that in general, it’s much more comfortable for the client.  The technique allows me to effectively assess which muscles are involved and to confirm that I am indeed working with a trigger point and not micro tears or basic knots in the tissue.

For most clients, I blend taut band therapy into their session and they may or may not realize we are using a different modality. If a client is in acute pain, I treat the session much differently and work solely to calm the point, using taut band therapy immediately, and once the acute level of pain has eased, I can blend CranioSacral Therapy to restore balance to the Nervous System and other massage therapy techniques to treat the rest of the body.

I have lived in a very special world – a world of love and security; beauty and serenity; opportunity, adventure, and variety; challenge and achievement; and the appreciation of my peers. I have had a sufficiency of everything that I desired and a surfeit of nothing.”  Dr. Janet Travell