Trigger points in the trapezius muscle.

The trapezius muscle is a large diamond shaped muscle located in your back. This muscle is often overloaded due to poor sitting posture or excessive exercise. When this occurs trigger points will form. These points can cause back, neck, and shoulder pain. Trigger points in the upper traps are a leading cause of headache.

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MRI Truths & Myths

Arthritis

Low back pain is a very common complaint. In fact, it’s the #1 reason for doctor visits in the United States! The economic burden of LBP on the working class is astronomical. Most people can’t afford to be off work for one day, much less a week, month, or more! Because of the popularity of hospital-based TV dramas over the past two decades, many people think getting an MRI of their back can help their doctor fix their lower back problem. Is this a good idea? Let’s take a look!

Patients will often bring in a CD that has an MRI of their lower back to a doctor of chiropractic and ask the ultimate question, “….can you fix me?” Or, worse, “…I think I need surgery.” Sure, it’s quite amazing how an MRI can “slice” through the spine and show bone, soft tissues, disks, muscles, nerves, the spinal cord, and more! Since the low back bears approximately 2/3 of our body’s weight, you can frequently find MANY ABNORMALITIES in a person over 40-50 years old. In fact, it would be quite odd NOT to see things like disk degeneration, disk bulges, joint arthritis, spur formation, etc.!

Hence, the “downside” of having ALL this information is the struggle to determine which finding on the MRI has clinical significance. In other words, where is the LBP coming from? Is it that degenerative disk, bulged disk, herniated disk, or the narrowed canal where the nerve travels? Interestingly, in a recent review of more than 3,200 cases of acute low back pain, those who had an MRI scan performed earlier in their care had a WORSE outcome, more surgery, and higher costs compared with those who didn’t succumb to the temptation of requesting an MRI!

This is not to say MRI, CT scans, and x-rays are not important, as they effectively show conditions like subtle fractures and dangerous conditions like cancer. But for LBP, MRI is often misleading. This is because the primary cause of LBP is “functional” NOT “structural,” so it’s EASY to get railroaded into thinking whatever shows up on that MRI has to be the problem.

Here is how we know this, when we take 1,000 people WITHOUT low back pain between ages 30 and 60 (male or female) and perform an MRI on their lower back, we will find up to 53% will have PAINLESS disk bulges in one or more lumbar disks. Moreover, we will find up to 30% will have partial disk herniations, and up to 18% will have an extruded disk (one that has herniated ALL the way out). Yet, these people are PAIN FREE and never knew they had disk “derangement” (since they have no LBP). When combining all of these possible disk problems together, several studies report that between 57% and 64% of the general population has some type of disk problem without ANY BACK PAIN!

Hence, when a patient with a simple sprain/strain and localized LBP presents with an MRI showing a disk problem, it usually ONLY CONFUSES the patient (and frequently the doctor), as that disk problem is usually not the problem causing the pain!  So DON’T have an MRI UNLESS a surgical treatment decision depends on its findings. That is weakness, numbness, and non-resolving LBP in spite of 4-6 weeks of non-surgical care or unless there is weakness in bowel or bladder control. Remember, the majority of back pain sufferers DO NOT need surgery!

We realize you have a choice in whom you consider for your health care provision and we sincerely appreciate your trust in choosing our service for those needs.  If you, a friend, or family member requires care for back pain, we would be honored to render our services.

Trigger point massage

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.

 

Is my Shoulder Pain a SITS Tear?

neck pain 1

One of the most common causes of shoulder pain is a rotator cuff (RC) tear. To determine just how common this is, one study looked at a population of 683 people regardless of whether or not they had shoulder complaints. There were 229 males and 454 females for a total of 1,366 shoulders. (The participants’ average age was 58 years, ranging from 22 to 87 years old.)

The research team found 20.7% had full thickness rotator cuff tears. Of those with shoulder pain, only 36% had tears found on ultrasound. Of those without shoulder pain, 17% also had tears! Risk factors for an increased for tearing of the rotator cuff include a history of trauma, the dominant arm (ie your right arm if you’re right handed), and increasing age.

In a review of radiologic studies of 2,553 shoulders, researchers found full-thickness rotator cuff tears in 11.75% and partial thickness tears in 18.49% of the subjects for a total of 30.24% having some degree of tearing. In this group, about 40% of tears were found in pain-free shoulders. The researchers concluded that rotator cuff tears are common and frequently asymptomatic.

Both of these studies support the necessity to FIRST consider the patient’s clinical presentation and then correlate that with the imaging results. In other words, the presence of a RC tear on an image (usually MRI or ultrasound) does NOT necessarily mean there is pain (and vise versa)!

So what other things could be causing the shoulder pain? There are many: impingement, tendonitis, bursitis, muscle strain, capsular (and other ligament) sprain, frozen shoulder, and osteoarthritis (the “wearing out” type). Also, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, polymyalgia rheumatica and other autoimmune types of “arthropathies,” fibromyalgia, a herniated cervical disk, shoulder dislocations, whiplash injuries, and more!

Most importantly, we must NOT forget to include referred pain to the shoulder from an impaired heart (such as coronary heart disease or heart attack), lung, liver, or gall bladder as these problems commonly refer pain to the shoulder and may represent a MEDICAL EMERGENCY!

What to expect from a trigger point massage

ession 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.

 

Trigger points in the trapezius muscle.

The trapezius muscle is a large diamond shaped muscle that travels from the neck to the mid back. It originates on the nuchal ligament, and the spinous processes of C6-T12. It has its insertion on the scapular spine, acromion process, and distal clavicle. The upper fibres of this muscle work to elevate the shoulder, and rotate the glenoid fossa upwards. The lower fibres assist this motion, and the middle fibres are strong adductors of the scapula. This is the number one muscle in the body tp get trigger points. Trigger points in the lateral upper edge refer pain in the lateral neck and temples, a common cause of headaches. Points in the middle and lower fibres refer pain into the posterior neck and shoulder.

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