The Lateral Pterygoid muscle is a muscle of the jaw. It originates on the greater wing of the sphenoid bone and the lateral pterygoid plate. It has its insertion on the condyloid process of the mandible. Functionally it it assists in opening the jaw by pulling the head of the mandibular condyle out of the mandibular fossa. Trigger points in this muscle refer pain into the temporal mandibular joint and maxillary sinus. Trigger points in this muscle are often the cause of pain felt from TMJ dysfunction.
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.
Temporomandibular joint dysfunction is a blanket term that refers to pain and dysfunction of the jaw muscles and the tempomandibular joints which connect the mandible to the skull. The most common symptoms are pain and restricted mandibular movement as well as grinding noises coming from the joint. This condition is more common in women then in men, and affects a large portion of patients suffering from fibromyalgia. Trigger points in the muscles of mastication are frequently involved in TMJ dysfunction. Trigger points in the pterygoid and masseter muscles for example will not only refer pain into the tempomandibular joints, but will also cause a dysfunctional movement pattern that can restrict range of motion. Trigger point therapy can be an effective modality to treat TMJ dysfunction.
Myofascial pain syndrome (trigger points) and fibromyalgia are often confused to be the same condition and while there is a lot of interrelatedness between the two they are not quite identical. The clinical definition of a trigger point is “a hyper irritable spot associated within a taut band of skeletal muscle that is painful on compression or muscle contraction, and usually responds with a referred pain pattern distant from the spot”. Trigger points form from an overload trauma to the muscle tissue. This is contrasted with fibromyalgia which is defined as “a medical condition characterized by chronic widespread pain and a heightened pain response to pressure. Other symptoms include tiredness to a degree that normal activities are affected, sleep problems and troubles with memory. Some people also report restless leg syndrome, bowel and bladder problems, numbness and tingling and sensitivity to noise, lights and temperature. It is also associated with depression, anxiety, and post traumatic stress disorder”. Fibromyalgia will also present with localized tender points which are often mistaken for trigger points. Where these two conditions become somewhat interrelated is via the nervous system. Fibromyalgia patients suffer from a super-sensitization of the nervous system causing hyperirritability and pain. Myofascial trigger points can be caused by,or be the cause of, super sensitization. An active trigger point will irritate the sensory nerves around it eventually leading to super-sensitization. Trigger points have also been showed to form of become active due to super-sensitization. Both of these conditions can perpetuate the other, leading to layers of pain and symptoms. This being the case, trigger point therapy can have a very positive effect on decreasing the severity of pain and symptoms in patients suffering from fibromyalgia.
The temporalis muscle is located in the temple area of the skull. It originates on the temporal lines on the parietal bone of the skull, and inserts on the coronoid process of the mandible. It’s main action is to close the jaw. The posterior and middle fibres bilaterally retrude the mandible. Acting individually, this muscle will deviate the mandible to the same side. Trigger points in this muscle refer into the teeth causing hypersensitivity, and into and above the eye and temple, causing headaches.
The lateral pterygoid muscle plays an important role in prober jaw function. It originates on the greater wing of the sphenoid bone and the lateral pterygoid plate, and inserts on the condyloid process of the mandible. It’s action is to pull the head of the mandibular condyle out of the mandibular fossa while opening the jaw. When trigger points develop they refer pain into the temporal mandibular joint and maxillary sinus. This referral is commonly mistaken for TM arthritis. In addition to the referral pain, trigger points in this muscle can also effect proper movement of the jaw.
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.