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.
With a whiplash injury the muscles of the neck get overloaded and strained. When this happens trigger points can form in any or all of these muscles. Trigger points in the neck muscles will refer pain into the head and face causing headaches and migraines. These points won’t release with rest, stretching, or rehab exercise. They require a manual technique like trigger point massage for them to resolve.
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The Subclavius muscle is a small muscle on the underside of the clavicle. It originates on the first rib and it’s cartilage, and inserts on the inferior clavicle. It’s main function is to assist in protraction of the shoulder. This muscle is often shortened and tight from poor rounded shoulder posture. When trigger points form in this muscle they can refer pain into the anterior shoulder and down the radial part of the arm. Pain can also be referred into the thumb and first two fingers.
The supraspinatus muscle is one of the muscles that makes up your rotator cuff. It attaches from the scapula to the humerus. It functions mainly to laterally rotate the arm as well as stabilize the shoulder joint. It also assists in abduction of the arm. This muscle can often harbour stubborn trigger points. These points refer pain into the shoulder, down the arm, into the elbow, and even into the forearm if irritated enough. These points can be effectively treated with trigger point massage therapy.
A very common muscle to become overloaded and damaged, and thus develop trigger points, is the pectoralis major muscle. This is the muscle that makes up the chest. It’s main functions are adduction and internal rotation at the shoulder. Poor rounded shoulder posture is a common cause of pec tightness and trigger points. trigger points in this muscle will produce pain felt into the front of the shoulder, the chest, and down the medial arm. If these symptoms occur in the left pec it can mimick heart pain. In women, these points can be a cause of breast pain and nipple hypersensitivity.
The subscapularis muscle is one of the rotator cuff muscles. It is located on the inside of the scapula, and can be difficult to access. This muscle functions to internally rotate the arm as well as to adduct the shoulder. It is also a stabilizer of the shoulder joint. When this muscle is overloaded or injured trigger points can form. These points will refer pain into the back of the shoulder and down the inside of the arm to the wrist. Trigger points in the subscapularis are often associated with a frozen shoulder.