The art of massage therapy helps muscles to stretch into healthy positions and keep you free from pain and improper positioning. The neck and back are both major places where pain and knotting can occur. This is especially true in today's lifestyles, where a lot of sitting and hunching over computers creates bad posture that makes this situation more extreme.
Trigger Points and their Cause
Trigger points are created from muscles trapped in webs of fascia, or connective tissue. This tissue holds things loosely in place, and when you use bad posture regularly, it can build up to create extra support for those poses. Muscle fibers can get trapped in these support structures, and this is what is mistakenly looked at as a muscle knot. These areas are called trigger points.
Finding Trigger Points
Trigger points can be found by pushing along the psths of the different muscles in your body. What you are looking for is the feeling of referred pain-- since the fascia needs more than one attachment point to give you structure, pushing on one will create a pain that shoots down somewhere else, or that you feel in a single distant place while pushing on the spot. Finding one of these places is a good sign you have located a trigger point, though there may be more than one causing your pain.
Treating Trigger Points
The easiest way to release trigger points is with pressure. This pressure can be a constant push with a hard object like a knuckle or a special tool, or it can roll across areas. Lacrosse balls are a popular tool to use on these areas, as they have less give than tennis balls, but are still not hard. A masseuse may use his or her hands on these areas, or they may look for tools to dig deeper. Flat, hard long surfaces like the handle end of a butter knife can work well when scraped across the surface of a muscle. It is painful, but extremely effective in creating release.
Locations of Back and Neck Trigger Points
Trigger points that affect the back and neck are not necessarily found close to the source of the pain. This is especially true with the neck, where the trigger points affecting it can be attached to the head, face, chest or upper back. Neck pain and teeth clenching are often related, and many sufferers of TMJ find this to be true for them. If you are unsure of the location of your trigger points, you can ask a massage therapist to explore, or you can follow the muscle yourself. Simply start at the point of pain, and push down until you feel the muscle it is attached with. Keep pushing along its direction until you find the end. If you push hard enough, you will likely activate the trigger point yourself.