A treatment with Bryan Cobb RMT.

Session Description

A treatment with Bryan is very user friendly. And, no, you don’t have to remove any clothing. However, bringing a t-shirt and a pair of shorts or sweats is recommended.

The first time you come for a treatment you will be asked to fill out a Client History form. Bryan will go over the information you provide, asking for more detail and discussing the type of pain you are having and its location.

The treatment itself involves locating the Trigger Points in the muscle or soft tissue and applying a deep focused pressure to the Point. This will reproduce the pain and the referral pattern that is characteristic of that pain.

The treatment will be uncomfortable at first, but as the Trigger Points release, the pain will decrease. The pressure will always be adjusted to your tolerance level. If, at any time, you feel too uncomfortable you can ask Bryan to ease off a bit.

Depending on your specific problem, Bryan may also use some stretching and / or range-of-motion techniques, as needed.

After treatment, it is usually recommended that the client apply moist heat to the area treated.

 

What the Heck Is a Trigger Point?

By Bryan Cobb, Advanced Remedial Massage Therapist

What is a Trigger Point?

Trigger Points (TP’s) are defined as a “hyper-irritable spot within a taut band of skeletal muscle. The spot is painful on compression and can evoke characteristic referred pain and autonomic phenomena.”1

Put into plain language, a TP is a painful knot in muscle tissue that can refer pain to other areas of the body. You have probably felt the characteristic achy pain and stiffness that TP’s produce, at some time in your life.

TP’s were first brought to the attention of the medical world by Dr. Janet G. Travell. Dr. Travell, physician to President John F. Kennedy, is the acknowledged Mother of Myofascial Trigger Points.  In fact, “Trigger Point massage, the most effective modality used by massage therapists for the relief of pain, is based almost entirely on Dr. Travell’s insights.”2  Dr. Travell’s partner in her research was Dr. David G. Simons, a research scientist and aerospace physician.

Trigger Points are very common. In fact, Travell and Simons state that TP’s are responsible for, or associated with, 75% of pain complaints or conditions.1 With this kind of prevalence, it’s no wonder that TP’s are often referred to as the “scourge of mankind”.

Trigger Points can produce a wide variety of pain complaints. Some of the most common are migraine headaches, back pain, and pain and tingling into the extremities. They are usually responsible for most cases of achy deep pain that is hard to localize.

A TP will refer pain in a predictable pattern, based on its location in a given muscle. Also, since these spots are bundles of contracted muscle fibres, they can cause stiffness and a decreased range of motion.  Chronic conditions with many TP’s can also cause general fatigue and malaise, as well as muscle weakness.

Trigger Points are remarkably easy to get, but the most common causes are

TP’s (black dots) can refer pain to other areas (red)

Sudden overload of a muscle

• Poor posture

• Chronic frozen posture (e.g., from a desk job),  and

• Repetitive strain

Once in place, a TP can remain there for the remainder of your life unless an intervention takes place.

Trigger Points Not Well Known

With thousands of people dealing with chronic pain, and with TP’s being responsible for — or associated with — a high percentage of chronic pain, it is very disappointing to find that a large portion of doctors and other health care practitioners don’t know about TP’s and their symptoms.

Scientific research on TP’s dates back to the 1700’s.  There are numerous medical texts and papers written on the subject.

But, it still has been largely overlooked by the health care field.  This has led to needless frustration and suffering, as well as thousands of lost work hours and a poorer quality of life.

How Are Trigger Points Treated?

As nasty and troublesome as TP’s are, the treatment for them is surely straight-forward.  A skilled practitioner will assess the individual’s pain complaint to determine the most likely location of the TP’s and then apply one of several therapeutic modalities, the most effective of which is a massage technique called “ischemic compression”.

Basically, the therapist will apply a firm, steady pressure to the TP, strong enough to reproduce the symptoms.  The pressure will remain until the tissue softens and then the pressure will increase appropriately until the next barrier is felt.  This pressure is continued until the referral pain has subsided and the TP is released. (Note:  a full release of TP’s could take several sessions.) 

Other effective modalities include dry needling (needle placed into the belly of the TP) or wet needling (injection into the TP).  The use of moist heat and stretching prove effective, as well. The best practitioners for TP release are Massage Therapists, Physiotherapists, and Athletic Therapists.  An educated individual can also apply ischemic compression to themselves, but should start out seeing one of the above therapists to become familiar with

the modality and how to apply pressure safely.

1 Simons, D.G., Travell, D.G., & Simons, L.S. Travell and Simons’ Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: the Trigger Point Manual.

Vol. 1.  2nd ed. Lippincott, Williams, and Wilkins, 1999.

2http://www.muscletherapyworks.com/MTW%20Biography%20T%20&%20S%2001.htm 

Trigger points in the adductor pollicis

The adductor pollicis is a muscle in the hand and acts on the thumb. It originates on the transverse head of the third metacarpal, the oblique head of the base of the second and third metacarpals, and the trapezoid and capitate bones. It inserts on the base of the proximal phalanx and ulnar sesamoid. This muscle acts to adduct and flex the thumb. Trigger points cause pain and aching along the outside of the thumb and hand, spillover pain may reach the thenar eminence.

Condition Of The Month: TOS!

TOS.jpg

Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS)

The term “thoracic outlet” describes an area at the base of your neck, just above your collarbone. Some important nerves and vessels pass through this outlet on their way into your arm. Compression of these tissues causes a condition called “thoracic outlet syndrome” which results in pain, numbness or tingling in your arm.

Several different factors can cause Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, commonly referred to as TOS. Sometimes TOS is caused from tightness in the muscles of your neck and chest, other times the space between your first rib and collarbone is too small. People who have an extra rib (cervical rib) and people who have recently suffered a neck injury may have a greater chance of having this problem.

The condition is aggravated by poor posture and by occupations that promote “slouching,” i.e., computer users, assembly line workers, supermarket checkers and students. Swimmers, volleyball players, tennis players, baseball pitchers and occupations requiring prolonged overhead activity. i.e., electricians and painters are also prime candidates for TOS.

Symptoms of TOS include arm pain, numbness, tingling and possible weakness. Neck, arm and hand pain may begin slowly and are often aggravated by elevation of the arms or excessive head movement. Loss of grip strength is possible.

Conservative treatment, like the kind we provide, has been shown to be effective at treating TOS. Through our careful exam we have identified your specific sites of compression and will use some of the following treatment to help:

You should avoid carrying heavy loads, especially on your shoulder i.e., carpet rolls. Briefcases, laptop cases or heavy shoulder bags should be lightened. Bra straps may need additional padding or consideration of replacement with a sports bra.

If you or someone you know suffers from any of these symptoms, call our office today. Our team has knowledge and tools to help you feel better quickly!

Radial Tunnel Syndrome

Your radial nerve begins in your neck and travels past your elbow en route to its final destination in your hand. Just beyond your elbow, this nerve passes through a 2-inch area on the back of your forearm called the “Radial tunnel”. “Radial tunnel syndrome” means that your radial nerve has been compressed or irritated within this space-leading to forearm pain or hand weakness.

Radial tunnel syndrome is thought to result from muscular overuse, especially prolonged or excessive wrist extension or rotation. The most common cause of compression comes from excessive tightness in a muscle called the “Supinator”. Workers whose jobs require heavy or repetitive wrist movements are at an increased risk for this disorder. Occasionally, the radial nerve can become irritated from direct compression by a tight band or brace. The condition may be more common in those who have diabetes or thyroid problems.

Symptoms from irritation of the radial nerve depend upon which specific nerve fibers are irritated. The most common symptoms include pain, numbness, tingling or decreased sensitivity along the top of your forearm radiating toward your hand and thumb. The symptoms often mimic those of “tennis elbow.” When the nerve fibers that control muscle function become compressed, you may experience weakness when trying to extend your fingers, hand or wrist. Seventy percent of radial tunnel patients also have problems in their neck or upper back.

Conservative treatment of radial tunnel syndrome is generally successful. Fixing the problem means limiting excessive or repetitive wrist movements, especially extension and rotation. In severe cases, a splint may be necessary to limit your motion. Try to avoid compression of your forearm, particularly from tight bands or braces. Use of a tennis elbow brace will likely aggravate your symptoms. You may find relief by applying ice or ice massage to the area for 10-15 minutes at a time.

So it FEELS like Carpal Tunnel but it ISN’T Carpal Tunnel?

Your Median Nerve begins in your neck and travels down your arm on its way to your hand. This nerve is responsible for sensation on the palm side of your first 3 ½ fingers and also controls some of the muscles that flex your fingers. The median nerve can sometimes become entrapped near your elbow as it travels through a muscle called the “pronator teres”. Compression of the median nerve by the pronator muscle is called “Pronator Syndrome.”

Pronator syndrome is often brought on by prolonged or repeated wrist and finger movements, i.e., gripping with the palm down. Carpenters, mechanics, assembly line workers, tennis players, rowers, and weight lifters are predisposed to this problem. The condition is more common in people with excessively developed forearm muscles and is also more common in your dominant arm. Pronator syndrome most often affects adults age 45-60 and females are affected about four times more frequently than males. People who suffer from diabetes, thyroid disease, and alcoholism have an increased risk for developing pronator syndrome.

Pronator syndrome produces symptoms very similar to a more common cause of median nerve compression called “carpal tunnel syndrome”. Symptoms of pronator syndrome include numbness, tingling, or discomfort on the palm side of your thumb, index, middle finger, and half of your ring finger. The discomfort often begins near the elbow and radiates toward your hand. Your symptoms are likely aggravated by gripping activities, especially those that involve rotation of the forearm, like turning a doorknob or a screwdriver. Unlike carpal tunnel syndrome, pronator syndrome symptoms are not generally present at night. You may sometimes feel as though your hands are clumsy. In more severe cases, hand weakness can develop.

To help resolve your condition, you should avoid activities that involve repetitive hand and forearm movements. Perhaps the most important aspect of your treatment plan is to avoid repetitive forceful gripping. You may apply ice packs or ice massage directly over the pronator teres muscle for ten minutes at a time or as directed by our office. In some cases, an elbow splint may be used to limit forearm movements. If left untreated, pronator syndrome can result in permanent nerve damage. Fortunately, our office has several treatment options available to help resolve your symptoms.

Bryan Cobb RMT.

Since 2005, Bryan has been dedicated to helping all people with chronic and acute pain caused by soft-tissue damage.

His training and experience make him uniquely qualified to treat a wide variety of pain and dysfunction and to give instruction on prevention and self-care.

Bryan is the only Massage Therapist in Manitoba — and one of the few in Canada — to be certified by the Certification Board for Myofascial Trigger Point Therapists (CBMTPT).

Bryan holds a degree as an Advanced Remedial Massage Therapist (ARMT) from the Massage Therapy College of Manitoba.  Course work at MTCM includes
• over 2,000 hours of practice, as well as
• intensive course work,
• a supervised clinical practicum, and
• community outreach placements.

MTCM has a credit transfer affiliation with the University of Winnipeg, ensuring that its courses are held to the highest level.  When Bryan studied at MTCM, the college was the only massage therapy college in western Canada accredited by the Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation.  Today, the college is a member of the Canadian Council of Massage Therapy Schools.

Bryan is a member in good standing of the Natural Health Practitioners of Canada.

Bryan also has a background in Anatomy, Exercise Physiology, and Sport Sciences from the University of Manitoba, and he has worked as a personal trainer and fitness leader.

He is an avid natural bodybuilder and fitness enthusiast, and has a blue belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

Osteoarthritis of the Hand

The bones in your hand have a slick, protective covering called “cartilage” on the joint surfaces that touch each other. This cartilage serves as a friction reducer and shock absorber, thereby, helping to extend the life of your joints. “Arthritis” means that your cartilage has begun to thin or crack and may eventually wear away –impairing your strength and dexterity. Painful hand arthritis affects

up to 1 in 4 people. This degeneration has a tendency to affect specific joints, especially those of your index and middle fingers and the base of your thumb.

Your chance of developing arthritis increases with age. Hand arthritis is 2 1/2 times more common in women. Arthritis occurs more often in joints that have been previously injured and in patients who perform repetitive movement of the hands- particularly labor and manufacturing jobs. Other risk factors include obesity and the presence of arthritis in your parents. Contrary to popular opinion, knuckle cracking does not increase your risk of arthritis, regardless of duration or frequency.

Symptoms usually begin slowly and progress into longstanding hand pain that comes and goes. Your symptoms are likely aggravated by activity and relieved by rest. Hard, bony enlargements often develop along the joint lines, especially in women. You may notice morning stiffness that subsides fairly quickly. Be sure to tell your doctor if you notice lasting morning stiffness or swelling, as this could be a sign of a different type of arthritis.

The American College of Rheumatology recommends the use of non-drug treatments (like the type provided in this office) for hand osteoarthritis. Patients with thumb osteoarthritis may benefit from a nighttime splint. Topical creams, especially those including “capsaicin” may help relieve symptoms. You may find relief by warming your hands with a hot pack or “paraffin bath” when they feel stiff. Some patients report benefit by taking Glucosamine Sulfate. The mainstay of treatment includes exercises to help improve your mobility and strength.

Do you wake up with numb fingers?

The term “thoracic outlet” describes an area at the base of your neck, just above your collarbone. Some important nerves and vessels pass through this outlet on their way into your arm. Compression of these tissues causes a condition called “thoracic outlet syndrome” which results in pain, numbness or tingling in your arm.

Several different factors can cause Thoracic Outlet Syndrome,

commonly referred to as TOS. Sometimes TOS is caused from tightness in the muscles of your neck and chest, other times the space between your first rib and collarbone is too small. People who have an extra rib (cervical rib) and people who have recently suffered a neck injury may have a greater chance of having this problem.

The condition is aggravated by poor posture and by occupations that promote “slouching,” i.e., computer users, assembly line workers, supermarket checkers and students. Swimmers, volleyball players, tennis players, baseball pitchers and occupations requiring prolonged overhead activity. i.e., electricians and painters are also prime candidates for TOS.

Symptoms of TOS include arm pain, numbness, tingling and possible weakness. Neck, arm and hand pain may begin slowly and are often aggravated by elevation of the arms or excessive head movement. Loss of grip strength is possible.

Conservative treatment, like the kind we provide, has been shown to be effective at treating TOS. Through our careful exam we have identified your specific sites of compression and will use some of the following treatment to help:

You should avoid carrying heavy loads, especially on your shoulder i.e., carpet rolls. Briefcases, laptop cases or heavy shoulder bags should be lightened. Bra straps may need additional padding or consideration of replacement with a sports bra.

Pathophysiology of trigger points.

A large number of factors have been identified as causes of trigger point activation. These include acute or chronic overload of muscle tissue, disease, psychological distress, systemic inflammation, homeostatic imbalances, direct trauma, radiculopathy, infections, and lifestyle choices such as smoking. Trigger points form as a local contraction of muscle fibres in a muscle or bundle of muscle fibres. These can pull on ligaments and tendons associated with the muscle which can cause pain to be felt deep inside a joint. It is theorized that trigger points form from excessive release of acetylcholine causing sustained depolarization of muscle fibres. Trigger points present an abnormal biochemical composition with elevated levels of acetylcholine, noradrenaline and serotonin and a lower ph. The contracted fibres in a trigger point constricts blood supply to the area creating an energy crisis in the tissue that results in the production of sensitizing substances that interact with pain receptors producing pain. When trigger points are present in a muscle there is often pain and weakness in the associated structures. These pain patterns follow specific nerve pathways that have been well mapped to allow for accurate diagnosis or the causative pain factor.

Diagnosis of trigger points.

Diagnosis of trigger points typically takes into account symptoms, pain patterns, and manual palpation. When palpating the therapist will feel for a taut band of muscle with a hard nodule within it. Often a local twitch response will be elicited by running a finger perpendicular to the muscle fibres direction. Pressure applied to the trigger point will often reproduce the pain complaint of the patient and the referral pattern of the trigger point. Often there is a heat differential in the local area of the trigger point.