Home Relief for Painful Trigger Points

Foam rolling at running event

FlickrAustin Marathon Relay 2009 116 by Roger Mommaerts

Do you ever find yourself asking your significant other, “Please, just press here, right between my shoulderblades!”  Are there tight, sore muscles that you notice yourself pushing on frequently to try to get some relief?  You may have trigger points in your muscles.  Trigger points are taut, irritable bands (about the size of a pea) in your tissues.  There are several types of trigger points, but I’ll save that discussion for a future blog post.  what I want to offer you today are three tools you can use to reduce the irritating sensations of trigger points.

Up first is the “S-hook massager.”  You can buy the type with knobs or the smooth type, but they act on the same principle.  you drape one end of the curved hook over your chest, and position the other end over the sore areas in your back.  The tool acts like a fulcrum, allowing you to push on the end that’s in front of you, generating pressure over the other end.  It’s easy to moderate the amount of pressure by modifying how hard you push, and it’s easy to re-position the tool to get multiple trigger points in a short amount of time.  Most people will naturally start with the area between the shoulder blades (rhomboids and traps), but don’t forget to search for trigger points in the muscles that lay over the scapula themselves (infraspinatus and teres minor).  You can switch your grip so the hook is held out to the side to put pressure on any trigger points you find in the pec minor and pec major muscles.  Hold each point for 10 seconds or until the pain starts to dissipate.  Another cool thing about these tools is that they break into two pieces so that you can take it with you when you travel.

Up next is one sock and one tennis ball.  Slide a (clean) tennis ball into a (clean) sock.  Stand with your back to a wall.  Hold the open end of the sock and fling the ball end behind you.  Now bend your knees slightly so you will be able to generate some force with your body weight.  Position the ball on the most sore spot in your back, lean into it, hold pressure for 10 seconds, then roll onto the next spot.  You can also face the wall and place the ball on your pecs, and then carefully lean into it.  The sock will keep the ball from dropping as you shift positions, and also serves as a visual cover to hide the tennis ball from your dog.  If they don’t see the ball go in there, they won’t try to chew it up.  Unless they love socks.  Then you’re out of luck and maybe you should try the S-hook.

Oakland sports chiropractor Dr. Sandy Baird shows a client foam rolling

Finally, we have the infamous foam roller.  Some muscles are easier to access than others when it comes to foam rolling.  Trigger points in the glutes, hips, and back are some of the most easily treated areas.  Use body weight to your advantage, placing the foam roller between you and the floor.  Roll until you find the most tender spots, and then hold pressure until the pain from the trigger points dissipates.  The black foam roller is the most dense and will last the longest.  The white roller is the softest (and least painful) but it won’t last you more than a few years before it becomes a foam ellipse in cross section instead of a circle.

Give them all a try and see what works best for you!

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