What is a Trigger Point?

We have close to 400 muscles in the human body.  Muscles can develop trigger points which can refer pain and cause dysfunction. Symptoms can range from intolerable agonizing pain caused by “active” trigger points, to painless restriction of movement and distortion of posture from “latent” trigger points.

There is not conclusive research on the definition of a trigger point.  However, many characteristics have been observed for decades by researchers all over the world. There are many mechanisms by which we develop trigger points. Some of those mechanisms include poor posture, injury to a muscle, muscle overuse, and repetitive stress overload. Trigger points limit range-of-motion and cause muscle fatigue.

When pressed on, trigger points feel like “knots” or tight bands in the muscle, and are usually tender. Healthy muscles usually do not contain knots or tight bands and are not tender to pressure.

Good news!!! Physical Therapy diminishes trigger points. Physical Therapy addresses trigger points by identifying and treating the primary driver of the trigger point.  This is done through trigger point release, massage, and posture re-education.

Herniated Disc- Definition and Symptoms

A herniated disc is a condition in which the tough outer wall of an intervertebral disc (a soft cushion that sits between each vertabrae of the spine) has been weakened. The herniation causes the cushion that sits between the vertebra to be pushed outside its normal position.

A herniated disc commonly occurs in the low back and sometimes in the neck. Very seldom do they occur in the mid-back due to the extra stability provided by the rib cage. In some cases, a herniated disc will press against the spinal nerves, causing pain, numbness, tingling, or muscle weakness.

Pressure on the nerve can cause abnormal sensations, commonly experienced as electric shock pains. Compression in the neck region causes pain down your arms and compression in the low back region causes pain down your legs.

Tingling & Numbness
You might experience sensations such as tingling, numbness, or pins and needles. These symptoms may be experienced in the same region as painful sensations.

Muscle Weakness
Because of the nerve irritation, signals from the brain may be interrupted causing muscle weakness. Nerve irritation can also be tested by examining reflexes or having your doctor perform an EMG test. An EMG test is a technique for evaluating and recording the electrical activity produced by skeletal muscles.

Bowel or Bladder Problems
These symptoms are important because it may be a sign of Cauda Equina syndrome, a possible condition resulting from a herniated disc. This is a medical emergency! See your doctor immediately if you have problems urinating, having bowel movements, or if you have numbness around your genitals.

If you experience any of these symptoms listed above, contact your physician or physical therapist to determine the appropriate course of treatment.

How to Achieve an Ergonomic Workstation

1. Adjust chair height so that your feet are flat on the floor.
Use footrest if you can’t achieve this.
2. Keep your wrist posture neutral.
3. Keep your monitor between 20 and 40 inches from your face.
4. Adjust monitor so that the center sits at eye level.
5. Place your keyboard so that your upper arms are perpendicular to the floor.
6. Chair is adjusted to keep body supported in an upright position.
7. Back rest is adjusted to fit the lumbar region of your spine.
8. Keep work within 16 inches of your body.

How ergonomic is our Harbor PT employee Liz?

Ergonomic Workstation
Ergonomic Workstation

How to Decrease Strain on Your Back While Driving

Sitting for a long period of time can put a strain on your back causing lower back pain. Listed below are some tips to reduce strain on your back while driving.

1. Avoid driving for more than 2 hours. Get out and walk around and stretch your legs.
2. Adjust your seat from time to time.
3. Use a lumbar support or seat cushion.
4. Short drivers can purchase a pedal extension to improve their sitting posture.
5. Use cruise control.
6. Move your seat up to avoid slouching.
7. Heat your seat to provide warmth to your muscles.
8. Ice your back when you get to your destination.

Proper Lifting Techniques to Avoid Lower Back Pain

1. Squat Technique
– Get close to the object
– Separate your feet shoulder width apart
– Keeping back straight, hinge at your hips and bend at your knees
– Extend your arms and pick up the object

Squat Technique

2. 1/2 Kneel Technique
– Get close to the object
– Step forward with one leg to position yourself into a lunge position
– Keeping back straight, lower your body
– Extend your arms and pick up the object

Half Kneel Technique

3. Golfers Technique (ONLY for smaller and lighter objects)
– Get close to the object
– Keep back straight
– Pendulum at hip joint in one motion to reach the object
– Extend your arm and pick up the object

Golfer Technique

Quad Stretch

There are several ways to perform a quad stretch. Below is a picture and description of an alternative to the basic standing quad stretch.

Quad Stretch
Quad Stretch

Kneel on the floor with one foot out in front of you. Take a few seconds to get your balance. Reach back and grab your back foot and pull up to get the desired stretch. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat 2-3 times.