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  • Writer's pictureRachael Scott, BS, LMT

What is a trigger point?

You've probably heard the term trigger point, and I bet you know what one feels like, but what IS a trigger point?

Weirdly, a trigger point isn't a physical thing that can be seen or measured. It's not something that we can explain in terms of anatomy and physiology. We don't "see" trigger points on ultrasounds, MRIs or in cadaver studies.

A trigger point is simply an experience that a person has of having a "spot" pushed on and feeling something special happen.

That special could be pain radiating out from the spot, or it could be a feeling of relief. It might "trigger" a sensation somewhere else - like when you push the spot your headache lessens.

Trigger points are shifty. They don't stay in one place. You can push on a point for a while and then it will disappear only to discover that it's really just moved over an inch or two. Why? I think it's because trigger points aren't "things" - they're feelings produced by our nervous system.

There are maps out there that tell you where to look for common trigger points, but you really never know where they'll show up. Each person has their own sweet spots.

So what do we DO with trigger points?

As humans - we like to poke our hot spots. Ooh yes! We put some pressure on the spot where it feels helpful, and sometimes that resolves a whole big uncomfortable problem for a while.

That's what I can do as a massage therapist.

I can go on a treasure hunt for hot spots, and then put some pressure on those points (with hopefully a bit of nuance and understanding) in order to help you have an enjoyable (if temporarily uncomfortable) experience.


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