Are you suffering from muscle, joint, or arthritis pain? Do your shoulders or back feel stiff?
Well, you may have developed what is called “trigger points.” And with the right simple steps, your tensed-up muscles and stiff joints can start whistling a happier tune.
What are trigger points?
Trigger points are tight knots of muscle in your neck, shoulders, or back that make movement painful and difficult. Wherever there is muscle tissue, there may be a small area of tissue tension that could be a trigger point.
Think of it as a small marble just under the skin or a tiny charlie horse in the muscle. Now, the pesky points don’t cause too much pain on their own, but when you have enough you may start to feel intense pain or even limited muscle mobility.
Treating your pain on your own.
I specialize in treating trigger points. Nerves control the muscles, and muscles control the joints. If you have joint pain, chances are that the muscles are involved and irritated in some certain pattern, but it is very hard to figure out that pattern of injury.
The best way to treat joint pain, arthritis pain, muscle spasm, is by treating the muscles. Muscles control everything. If you can reprogram the muscles, and break them out of these neurological patterns of inflammation and spasm, you can get them to heal and function like normal. Well, almost normal. I am a big believer that once you injure yourself, that area is never the same again. The injury gets wired into your system neurologically, and that area is less stable and more likely to get injured in the future.
The best way to treat joint pain and muscle spasm is by applying pressure to the most painful and inflamed spot (trigger point) in the painful muscle; by doing this you cut off the blood supply and the neurological input that perpetuates the muscle spasm.
The way you find the spot (trigger point), is by locating the irritated muscle, and finding the most swollen and painful area of the muscle, and applying pressure to it. When you apply pressure, you are decreasing inflammation in the muscle and joint, and cutting off the neurological input that is causing the muscle spasm. Thereby reprogramming the muscle. The more you treat the trigger point, the quicker you will break that muscle out of its habit of spasm and inflammation, and allow it to return to its normal function.
Please keep in mind though, that the area that you feel your pain, might not be where your pain is coming from. And where you think your primary problem is, might be secondarily irritated by another problem, that is primary. Kind if like if you have pain in the outside of your knee. It can easily be coming from hip tightness in the glutes, on that same side of the knee pain, pulling on the IT band which is pulling on the outside of the knee, giving you knee pain.
Trying to figure out where your pain is coming from can be difficult, at best, even for a professional. That is why I break up joint pain into areas. It is a complex of muscles that are irritated and causing the joint pain. That’s why you can’t just treat one muscle.
Kind of like if you have left shoulder pain, you can’t just treat the infraspinatus rotator cuff muscle. It will be involved, and possibly the primary spot, but you have to treat the rhomboids and traps and muscles going into the neck, and in the front of the chest as well.
Living the Pain-Free Lifestyle.
On my website, I break your pain up into different areas. Shoulder or neck or upper back pain? The written and video blogs will tell you which muscles to treat, and how to treat them. Hip or low back or knee pain? The written and video blogs will tell you which muscles to treat, and how to treat them. The videos are easy to follow and are meant to be done at home.
The only equipment that you will need is a tennis ball, lacrosse ball, massage ball, or something else round and hard. A foam roller is also helpful, along with a basketball. I find the tennis ball much more accurate than the foam roller. And when treating trigger points, and muscle pain, accuracy is everything.
If you are thinking of starting on a new exercise system, I would recommend that you take the time and go through your muscles with a tennis ball and a foam roller, and make sure your muscles are looser and up to the challenge of exercising. You will find that you’ll be sore and sensitive in places that you didn’t know had muscles. Loosen yourself up and balance your body first, prior to starting a new exercise routine. You want to continue to treat yourself and your muscles at home, as you exercise, usually afterward. It is a great way to cool down and recover.
I’d hold each trigger point, or tender spot, for 5-10 seconds, no more. The longer you hold it, the more you chance bruising it. You are trying to reprogram the muscle by breaking up the neurological patterning that is causing the muscle pain, not trying to mash out a muscle knot, or rub out a tender spot. You can go over each muscle 2-3 times. A very painful and active spot, you can go over 4 times. But try not to do it more than that. If you do, you chance bruising the muscle. I’d also not do this more than every other day. If you do it every day, you chance bruising the muscle.
The trigger point will feel like a slippery little ball under the skin. It might be extremely sensitive, or not that sore. It might be stringy, or fibrous. This is a sign that it’s been tight for along time, years.
It is a skill to treating trigger points. Take your time. The more you do it, the better you will get at it. And the better you will feel. The simplest explanation for treating your trigger points at home: find the most irritating spot in the muscle, and press on it.
Have a Pain Free Day
It is very common for our balance to get worse as we age. Many of us think that it is a normal part of the aging process, and just something that we have to deal with.
I am here to tell you that you don’t have to settle for your balance getting worse as you get older.
When I work with athletes, it is imperative to keep their hip muscles loose so that they are functional. As an athletes’ hips get tighter, their athletic performance will decline.
The low back and hip muscles allow us to stand up and sit down, cut back and forth, twist, pivot, and switch directions. The tighter that they get, the harder it is to cut, move, and do the things that athletes have to do.
What this means to a normal person is that the tighter their hips get, the more likely they will be to trip and fall, and the worse the effects from the fall will be.
Your Ability to Balance: All About the Age
Studies that show that the older we get, the more susceptible we are to falling, and the more the falling affects us. My 95 year old uncle Mort used to joke that the older he got, the harder the ground got. The tighter your low back and hips are, the harder it is to raise your foot to clear a curb or obstacle while you are walking and talking to a friend.
I find that tight low back and hip muscles make us more likely to fall, and make the effects of that fall, worse. This tightness is something that doesn’t occur overnight, it slowly and insidiously builds up over time.
That’s why most of us think that our tight and sore low back and hips are just part of life, and just part of getting older.
A tight low back, hips and legs are not a normal part of getting older.
Muscle tightness builds up every day. Everyday we are doing the same motions over and over again. These repetitive motions are what slowly, and insidiously, tighten up our muscles every day. The muscles get tighter and tighter over time until they pull on our joints and bones to give us bad posture, followed by joint pain. When someone bends over to tie their shoe and they throw their back out, it is due to tight muscles. It wasn’t bending over to tie the shoe caused the issue, that was the straw that broke the camels back. It was all of the muscle tightness building up over years, causing the muscles to get irritated and inflamed, and likely to be pulled, injured, sprained or strained.
Tight hip and low back muscles are becoming an epidemic in our society. With everybody sitting for hours at desks in front of computers, most people will have some hip and low back tightness. Sitting for long periods tightens up the muscles in the legs, hips and low back, (also in the neck shoulders and arms but that is a different topic). Sitting causes the muscles in the legs, hips and low back to get so tight that they become non functional. This is because every minute that you are sitting, the muscles in your legs, hips, core and back, are all contracting to keep you sitting upright and prevent you from flopping over like a boneless chicken.
Treating Your Chronic Sitting
A common diagnosis for this, I kid you not, is “Dormant Butt Syndrome”. This means that the muscles in the hip (or butt) area, get so tight from sitting too long that they become non functional, they won’t contract or move. The muscles get so tight that they can’t move. This causes a huge muscle imbalance in the hips and low back, and creates a whole host of back pain and injury.
The best way to treat this issue, how to prevent this issue form coming on in the first place, and prevent it from coming back, is to exercise, stretch and trigger point yourself. You want to keep the muscles in your back, hips and legs loose and strong. You want to stretch on a regular basis, and exercise on a regular basis.
Just walking won’t do it. Walking is a great exercise, but it has to be coupled with some other strength training and stretching. Otherwise walking will strengthen you up in an imbalanced way.
It’s like when I work on a construction worker who tells me that he doesn’t need to exercise because his work keeps him in shape.
Your work will strengthen you up in an imbalanced way because you are doing the same motions over and over again, and usually they aren’t balanced out to both sides of the body.
Usually you’ll have to use one side more, repeatedly. Over time this creates a muscle imbalance by overusing some muscles while other muscles get underused. This imbalance will eventually create injury and pain.
That is why it is so important to do some strength training and some stretching. You want to keep the muscles strong and loose.
But it has to be a balanced routine. That is why I put together Pain Free Lifestyle. It is a balanced, easy on your body exercise, nutrition and stretching system that anyone can follow, from home, spending about 20-30 minutes per day.
You don’t have to go through Pain Free Lifestyle. There are many exercise and stretching systems out there. You can do yoga, which is stretching and strengthening. Pilates, Ti Chi, Chi Gong, are also examples of systems that stretch and strengthen, are easy on your body, and are low impact.
I am a huge fan of weight lifting, but only when done moderately. As we age, heavy, high intensity weight lifting beats us up more and more and we recover slower and slower from it. That’s why I would recommend that whatever exercise system you choose, you can do it repeatedly, and without pain.
You want to feel better after a workout, not beaten up and in pain.
You want an exercise system that you can stick with, without causing pain and injury.
Exercise smarter, not harder.
Eat intelligently, not less.
Have a Pain Free Day.
They are the machines of the body. Every finger movement, every eye blink, every cough, and even every toe wiggle is controlled by your muscles. And usually, it’s not just one muscle involved. It’s tens to hundreds of muscles for even the smallest movement.
Each flick of the finger fires off millions of neurons throughout the brain, spine, and central nervous system to contract and relax these muscle groupings. And all of this is just to scratch your nose.
2016 has been a big year for changes at Cohen Trigger Point Center.
Foremost, 2016 started with the passing of my father, and the founder of our practice, Dr. Jeffrey H. Cohen. He started the practice on April Fools Day, 1976. He was fond of joking that we have been fooling people ever since. He was a pioneer in bringing the treatment of muscles and soft tissue into the field of chiropractic through the treatment of trigger points.
Dr. Cohen specialized in Nimmo’s Receptor Tonus Technique for treating trigger points. He treated many entertainers, celebrities, and athletes. His love for helping people out of pain was legendary. His loss will be felt in the chiropractic community (and in our practice) for many years.