Referred Pain and Trigger Points

Your Aches and Pains Might Be a Sign of Something Distant

Ever feel some pain on your body that had no apparent cause to it? I sure have.

For example, the arches of your feet can start experiencing intensely sharp pain, but you have done nothing new to your feet to cause this problem. Have you ever considered that the problem may lie elsewhere in your body?

This describes a situation I encountered a few years back. Heel pain (or plantar fasciitis) was what I discovered I had one morning, all because I played a game of Twister the night before. “Are you kidding me?!” I told myself in disbelief.

All the icing and massage only helped so much, and I still had this pain for months. It wasn’t until I discovered the concept of referred pain, or in my case more specifically, trigger points.

The concept is simple. Musculoskeletal pain, with no apparent cause, that’s felt in one location of the body can be a result of dysfunction located in another region of the body. It’s a bit mind-boggling, yet an extremely simple concept.

Typically it is chronic tightness in a group of muscle fibers, in combination with a reflex of that muscle, that refers the pain elsewhere down the muscle or limb. Some people casually refer to these tight bundles of muscle as knots, rather appropriately.

Here’s a video of a specialist going into more detail about trigger points.

A quick Google search seems to deem that the general consensus is that habits that decrease tissue quality can lead to the development trigger points. These habits are overuse and chronic activation of muscles (e.g., sitting down shortening the hip flexors), or underuse and chronic under-activation of muscles (e.g., sitting down lengthening and deactivating the gluteal muscles).

Certain massage techniques are required to “release” the tightness and knots in the muscle. Many experts and therapists out there can help you find and release your trigger points, for a price. I found that you can find trigger-point-pain-referral charts online (like this one here) and work on it yourself.

What I found for my heel pain, was that I had trigger points in my calf and hamstring. With a bit of self-massage and stretching in these areas, combined with daily massaging on my arches, my heel pain was gone in a few weeks.

So if you’re dealing with chronic musculoskeletal pain, make sure you rule out trigger points before you do anything drastic. I’m glad I took that route and solved the pain on my own.

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One Comment

  1. Photo Credits
    Massage tables. Author: Chris 73.

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