One of the most common forms of pain I see in my practice is neck and shoulder pain. Many people have jobs that require the muscles of the neck and upper back to work overtime to keep proper neck posture. Sitting in front of a computer all day or being stuck in a car or truck for example will eventually cause these muscles to become strained and develop trigger points. These trigger points will then cause pain, referred pain, stiffness and weakness. Neck and upper back trigger points will refer pain into the neck and head.
Neck pain and stiffness are very common. Most of us have, at one point or another experienced it. Neck pain can range from being an annoyance to being excruciating and debilitating. Lots of issues can cause neck pain, but one of the most common causes are myofascial trigger points. Trigger points from in muscles tissue from overload stress. This stress causes muscle fibers in a muscle to become contracted into a knot. These knots will produce pain, referred pain, stiffness and weakness among other symptoms. Trigger points in the levator scapulae and the trapezius muscles are a leading cause of neck pain and stiffness.
Myofascial pain syndrome is a chronic pain disorder. In this condition, pressure on sensitive points in your muscles (trigger points) causes pain in the muscle and sometimes in seemingly unrelated parts of your body. This is called referred pain.
This syndrome typically occurs after a muscle has been contracted repetitively. This can be caused by repetitive motions used in jobs or hobbies or by stress-related muscle tension.
Signs and symptoms of myofascial pain syndrome may include:
- Deep, aching pain in a muscle
- Pain that persists or worsens
- A tender knot in a muscle
- Difficulty sleeping due to pain
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Trigger points are the clinical name for contracted muscle knots. These knots are the result of an overload stress placed on the muscle tissue. This overload can be from both acute or chronic stresses. When this happens some of the muscle fibers get locked together in a maximally contracted spasm that self perpetuates. These trigger points then cause symptoms such as pain, referred pain, stiffness, and weakness. They are one of the most common source of pain in the human body, and can even mimick symptoms of other conditions. Trigger points don’t go away on their own, they also can’t be treated with stretching, rest or rehabilitation exercises. A direct intervention targeted directly at the point itself such as trigger point massage therapy is the only way to release a trigger point.
Regular massage sessions have been found to decrease depression and anxiety levels and improve sleep quality, perhaps because they trigger the release of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that can help you feel calm. The technique has been found to benefit children and adolescents, as well
Piriformis syndrome is a condition in which the piriformis muscle, located in the buttock region, spasms and causes buttock pain. The piriformis muscle can also irritate the nearby sciatic nerve and cause pain, numbness and tingling along the back of the leg and into the foot (similar to sciatic pain).
Low back pain can be a complicated condition. Quite often in my practice I will see multiple muscles involved in causing lower back pain in my clients. For example trigger points in the hip flexors like the psoas muscle, along with trigger points in the back muscles themselves, such as the quadratus lumborum or the multifidus, can all be active and refer pain into the low back. When trigger points are active in multiple muscles at once this is called a chronic myofascial pain syndrome.