When relaxation isn’t enough

by | Oct 24, 2011 | Muscles & Tendons | 0 comments

Relaxation is great.  Everyone can benefit from deep, therapeutic recharging of mind and body.

Some people seek relaxation by lying on tennis balls or a stiff foam roller.  Or in a yoga class.  With deep breathing.  Meditation.  Or with a guided-imagery CD.

It’s great.  Deep relaxation bakes the stress right out of your body.

But relaxation alone is not enough.

Here’s what I mean.

Your muscles are under the control of your nerves.  When a nerve signal hits a muscle, the muscle twitches.  This control system has worked well throughout millions of years of evolution.

The problem is when you forget to shut your nerve signals off.  Then you’re “tense.”  Your muscles never stop twitching.  They continue working – even when you’re just sitting there drooling in front of the TV.

Experiencing deep therapeutic relaxation quiets those subconscious nerve signals so your muscles get a rest.  That’s a good thing.


If your muscles have been over-worked or strained for an extended period, you have a deeper problem.  Your muscle fibers lose their normal micro-architecture.  Instead, the different protein filaments in your muscle bind together.

Once these molecular cross-bridges congeal together, it doesn’t matter how deeply you relax.  The knots are built into the fabric of your muscle.  Even if your brain stops signaling your muscle to twitch it no longer matters.

It’s too late.  You’ve got a trigger point.

Trigger Points – Everybody’s Got ʼEm

Trigger points are dysfunctional zones in muscles where protein chains have latched together tightly and can’t unlatch.

Virtually everyone has trigger points – in tight shoulder muscles, the low back, the jaw muscles, or almost anywhere.  Most of the time, trigger points hover quietly in the background, below your level of awareness.  These low level knots are called latent trigger points.

Even though a latent trigger point doesn’t cause pain, it still creates havoc.

When you’ve got a trigger point, your muscle can’t contract efficiently.  And the muscle can’t stretch fully, either.  That places the rest of your body’s mechanical system at risk.  And it adds to the load on your nervous system, too.

At the same time, a latent trigger point is bigger trouble waiting to happen.

When you’re extra fatigued, or over-stressed, a latent trigger point can emerge from the background and cause pain.  Then you’ve got an active trigger point.

On one hand, trigger points aren’t major health disasters.  Nothing’s broken.  Nothing’s diseased.  They’re not going to kill you.

On the other hand, active trigger points can cause considerable pain.   They contribute to headaches.  They put extra stress on other joints and muscles.  They sap your energy.  You don’t exercise as much.  Your sleep may be disturbed.  In many subtle ways, they wear away at your vitality and the balance of your health.

Trigger points can be a big part of a downward health spiral.

The Most Sophisticated Trigger Point Treatment is Also the Simplest

Doctors have tried a lot of methods to fix trigger points.

Anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are popular.  They can over-ride the pain.  But beyond that, they don’t do much, since trigger points aren’t inflamed.

Some doctors use coolant spray (ethyl chloride or methyl fluorine) to “freeze” the trigger point area so it can unlatch.  Lidocaine injections are also used.

But there’s a method that’s both the simplest and the most sophisticated.

The Skilled Human Hand

An experienced practitioner can combine different forms of manual therapy to ease trigger points and rebalance your muscles.

The treatment goes beyond what you can achieve on your own with simple relaxation.  Manual therapy can renovate the architectural design of your muscle fibers and reset the brain pathways that control muscle activation and pain perception.

In addition to erasing the central problem spot, the trigger point, an effective hands-on treatment will address the factors that constantly stir up your trigger points.

That means working on neighboring body areas, freeing the motion of your joints, and addressing habits of posture and body use.

If your chiropractor utilizes a diversity of manual therapy methods, you’re in good hands.

If you need help in finding a practitioner who’s able to address your needs in a comprehensive way, perhaps I can help you locate someone in your town.

Call me at 212-400-9663 or 609-497-1944.

Or email me at drlavine@askdrlavine.com


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