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.