Tight, aching shoulders – could trigger points be the cause?
A common cause of the all too familiar ache through the upper shoulders and neck can be the presence of trigger points – a tight portion of muscle that remains constantly contracted, otherwise known as knots.
Trigger points can form following minor injury, repetitive activities or muscular fatigue (often caused by poor posture). The tension caused by the contraction leads to decreased blood circulation to the affected area, limiting the oxygenation of the surrounding tissues and causing a build up of waste products. Given enough time, the lack of oxygen can decrease the muscles’ ability to properly function.
Trigger points will often “trigger” pain in areas of the body away from where the immediate contracture has occurred. This can be the cause of dull aching sensations all around the body and can also be a common cause of headaches.
Trigger points can be treated by two main methods: manual sustained pressure, or dry needling (a form of acupuncture). The first treatment method is commonly seen in the form of manual therapy – deep tissue massage, or the use of massage balls at home. It involves specifically locating the trigger point and applying sustained pressure until some relief is felt.
Another form of treatment is dry needling or “trigger point” needling. Here a very fine acupuncture needle is inserted quickly into the contracted muscle then instantly removed. This motion can create what is known as a twitch response whereby the muscle undergoes a very brief involuntary contraction, followed by a relaxation of the tight area. This style of treatment is preferable to the manual pressure required when deeper areas of muscle need to be accessed.
If you would like to know whether trigger point needling is something that could benefit you, feel free to contact Tony at Osteopathic Natural Health. He is qualified in Western Medical Acupuncture and has appointments available in both the Waimauku and Helensville clinics.
Tony Howat, Osteopathic Natural Health.