As a longtime runner, I can assure you this: I know trigger points. The funny thing is, you probably do too. You might just not know what they are-at least, not yet.
Think of a sore spot, whether in your upper back, lower back, glutes, or anywhere else you tend to tense up after working out. Often times, when you start to poke around, it may be possible to locate an isolated area from which the discomfort is stemming.
When "triggered," these tender muscle fibers contract and tighten, causing a physical response and further discomfort. With trigger point therapy, a qualified practitioner is able to address the affected, knotty muscles.
So when is trigger point therapy appropriate?
Whenever you hurt, explains licensed massage therapist Michael Genovese. "Really, massage is like maintenance. Every so often you get bodywork, just like you'd get an oil change in your car."
Adds Kei Niebur, "You can continue to do trigger point therapy sessions for as long as you like. However, be sure to give yourself a few days between sessions. Drink plenty of water, and don't get massages when you are feeling sick or stressed out."
One way to determine whether trigger point therapy is appropriate is to create a personal pain scale. Melissa McMaster, a therapeutic massage specialist, says that, for individuals who are dealing with a specific problem (like a sore shoulder or piriformis syndrome, for instance), treatment may be required more often. "On a 10 point scale, where 0 is no pain and 10 is the worst pain in your life, you should go back to the therapist when your pain hits 5," Melissa suggests. "Don't wait until you are taking medication or are in great pain."
Of course, the best way to resolve trigger point pain is going to be by teaming up with a well-trained practitioner who can custom tailor your session to your needs. "Some clients need to continue treatment once a week, while others can reduce frequency to twice a month or less," says Zeel Bodywork Expert Brenda Breedlove. "Just as most bodies are individual, so are the treatment routines. Neuromuscular massage modalities like trigger point therapy are used as a way of retraining your body out of dysfunction and bad postural habits. Habits and dysfunction don't happen overnight, and neither does the retraining."