I am asked this question frequently, and it is a great question. By definition a trigger point is a palpable nodule in a taut band of contracted muscle tissue which refers pain upon palpation to a specific charted pain region of the body. You knew that right? Yeah because you googled it. Here's a video which does a great job explaining the anatomy of a trigger point, what you can do about it, and why it's important. Enjoy!
A Temporary Tripod Dog
Last week our 8 year old dog Milo, who has no notion of slowing down, was full of energy from being outside and jumped up onto the couch as she always does. 99.5 times out of 100 this is not a problem, but today this simple ordinary behavior caused her to yelp in agony and suddenly lose the ability to bear weight on one leg.
For any of you who have pets or even kids who are in your charge, you know that when they get hurt you feel terrible as the one who is looking out for them. Others still can empathize with Milo's injury by remembering that time that you tweaked your back picking up a suitcase, or perhaps the injury was a crick in your neck from "sleeping wrong". The point is that none of us get through our life without having to cope with insult and injury.
The Quick FIX
Of course as a soft tissue therapist my dog's injury became very interesting to me. I researched the specific canine anatomy and created a treatment plan for getting her back on four legs again. This really wasn't a difficult thing, much of the anatomy is similar enough to the human frame that it was just a matter of applying the proper pressure to the appropriate place combined with a general PRICE protocol. That is Protect Rest Ice Compression and Elevation. In 32 hours she was running around like a pup again with no limp in sight!
So what made her treatment a success while we as the "higher species" so frequently go through weeks, months, and even years of agony after injury or upset? While there are many variables to be sure, a couple of ideas hit me foremost.
Frequency of Treatment
Milo was lucky to be able to receive multiple treatment sessions a day. To be sure, this wasn't spa therapy. There was wimpering at times when working with the sensitive and inflamed soft tissues. She let me know she had enough treatment for one session by her willingness to participate. But importantly we kept at it until the pain was gone, and we are still working the area to stimulate healing even though there are no current symptoms.
The moral of the story is that if you are trying to affect positive change to an injury or sore area, a once a month massage as blissful as it might be is not the answer. Below you will find a simple graphic which depicts the benefit of frequency of care. Soft tissue work is cumulative in nature. With frequency and a solid treatment plan, a medical massage therapist can keep the progress of the last treatment and build on that to give you the results you are looking for. The same quality of therapy however, delivered over a more protracted time frame likely does not deliver the same result.
Another area where dogs prevail over humans is having enough time to rest and recover. In fact for some lucky dogs, that's the majority of their day. Milo wasn't able to fully heal until we went back to work and she went back to her regularly scheduled day nap schedule. We can all take cues from this most anytime, but especially when the body is in a repair process. Rest is arguably just as important as the therapy.