One of the most important jobs of a massage therapist is client education. We are here to support you as you improve the quality of your life. Therefore, you will frequently see articles in our newsletters like this one; giving you tips and information on how to incorporate activities and lifestyle decisions into your daily routine so that the progress you make in each session increases in between visits.
Releasing trigger points in your own body can be at once both straightforward and problematic. That is why we would like to take this opportunity to share with you our knowledge of trigger point guidelines to ensure that your self-care is effective and helpful. It is important to follow the very same guidelines that we use in sessions with you when working on yourself so that you don’t irritate these hot spots in your muscles; potentially making them even more uncomfortable.
Here are the rules when treating your own trigger points:
- When you find a trigger point, hold pressure on this point for no more than 8-12 seconds.
- Use a pain scale on yourself (1-10) and try to stay around a 5, never going over a 7.
- You can return to the same trigger point no more than 4 times in one session.
- Go into your self-care session well hydrated and drink plenty of water after as well.
- Give your muscles at least 24-48 hours rest in between self-care sessions.
- Incorporate massage, stretching and movement into your self-care sessions; integrating the trigger point work back into the body .
These guidelines are in place for a reason. Clients tend to do too much, too fast when it comes to taking trigger point treatment into their own hands. The “more is not always better” slogan definitely applies here. The key to knowing whether you are working a trigger point at the right pressure is that you should always be able to relax into the pressure; if you are wincing or holding your breath, you are pushing too hard. You are looking for a clear, strong sensation that can be described as a ‘good pain’.
There are many massage tools and household items that can be used to assist your work. You are certainly welcome to just use fingertip pressure on areas that are easily within reach. However, there are many areas of the body that are more easily treated with tools. Let’s look at three of the most commonly used tools for trigger point self-care:
- Thera Cane
o Thera Canes are self massagers that look like a miniature shepherd’s staff. They have a few handles and many knobs all around it that make it a great tool to sink into trigger points. Thera Canes are great for getting at trigger points all over the body, especially in hard to reach places.
- Foam Rollers
o An old favorite of runners, a hard core foam roller can be used to work out trigger points, especially through the lower body. All it takes is your own body weight, and sometimes a bit of core strength, to ‘roll out’ or just ‘relax into’ trigger points. They are useful for stimulating circulation and massaging the muscles as well.
- Tennis Balls
o The basic idea of tennis ball massage is to trap the ball between your body and the floor, a wall, or another body part. A great way to massage specific points in your back and throughout the hips, legs and feet.
It is always a good idea to talk to your massage therapist, physical therapist, chiropractor or medical doctor before starting any form of self-care. There may be certain muscles that they would like you to focus on or avoid. Neuromuscular massage therapists that work from ongoing structural analysis can direct you on what work would best compliment the treatments being done in-session.
Please keep HOPE Wellness Institute in mind as a source of self-care information. We are always here to answer your questions and demonstrate any exercises or activities that can assist your progress at home.