My Job as a Chiropractor is to look at the musculoskeletal system and determine where your pain is coming from. In most cases it will either be coming from bone i.e. your joints and cartilage, or from the muscles surrounding these joints, or both. In this article I want to focus on trigger points found in muscle that can mimic pain similar to joint pain and can be mistaken as joint or bone pain.
Back pain doesn’t always mean you have osteoarthritis of the spine, you might just have trigger points in your quadratus lumborum, eretor spinae and/or multifidis muscles. Even if your xrays show signs of degeneration of the spine, that doesn’t always mean the pain is coming from the spine. Pain traveling from the lower back and down the leg doesn’t always mean you have a herniated disc or pinched nerve in your spine, it could be a referral pain coming from your gluteus medius muscle or a piriformis syndrome where the muscle is squeezing your sciatic nerve. Pain in the lumbar spine is sometimes felt very generally, to give you an example the tongue has 3x the surface area of sensation than the entire lumbar spine, so it is very difficult for a patient to specify where pain is coming from exactly.
So what causes trigger points in muscle? These trigger points come about from acute and chronic overloads of the muscles. This can be from suddenly twisting your body when your muscles aren’t ready or strong enough, as you would swinging a golf club, or driving a car with no power steering could chronically overload your teres minor muscle that can refer pain to the shoulder. So anything that suddenly overstresses a muscle or low grade stress over time can lead to the development of these trigger points.
Treating these trigger points can be done easily by a Chiropractor or Physiotherapist. Being trained to identify these trigger points, a Chiropractor will use ischemic compression and dry needling therapy to deactivate these tender muscles, along with prescribed home stretching/exercise therapy.
If you have been diagnosed with trigger points, at home you can treat them yourself with a foam roller, see our in depth foam roller article here: http://www.chiropractorjhb.co.za/how-to-use-a-foam-roller-for-injury-prevention/
Alternatively, If you don’t have a foam roller and would like to get into small areas like the back of the neck and between the shoulder blades, you can use a tennis ball to roll on. When you lie on the ball, the problem spot will feel tender and bring on the pain you have been experiencing, but keep rolling and applying pressure to this point for a few minutes until the pain starts to subside. Rolling the muscles of the upper back and neck can also be very effective for tension headaches.
These rolling techniques can be done for a few minutes, once every second day until relief is felt. If no relief is felt or if rolling makes your back/neck pain worse, come in immediately for an appointment with a Chiropractor so we can properly diagnose your spinal condition and put you onto the correct treatment protcol.