What’s a Trigger Point? PART 1
We’ve talked a lot about chiropractic care, normal and abnormal spinal structure and how important it is to first find the primary cause of your secondary symptoms (back pain, neck pain, sciatica, headaches, etc). More often than not, an abnormal shift in your spine is the primary factor. A spinal shift is responsible for many of the common secondary symptoms like back pain, neck pain, sciatica, disc problems etc. However there are rare cases when the muscular problems from sustained low-level isometric contractions, eccentric contraction (when a muscle contracts and stretches at the same time), chronic muscle tension, gross trauma, overuse, or sustained rapid movement or even emotional stress can cause trigger points that are not resolved by addressing your spine’s structure. In fact, there are rare situations in which trigger points in the muscle don’t allow the spine and muscles to respond to structurally focused chiropractic care.
Which Is It?
The only way to reliably verify whether a specific trigger point is a primary condition causing a specific pain or symptom is to deactivate the trigger point and see if the pain remains. Trigger points, although common, are rarely so bad that you are unable to effectively address structural abnormalities with chiropractic. An abnormal shift in the spine is often the primary condition. Trigger points are most often the secondary condition. Which is another reason our chiropractic office is structurally focused and not focused on secondary conditions. We don’t look for muscular conditions like trigger points as a primary condition first. When you hear hoof beats we first think horses (spinal shift) not zebras (trigger points).
However, in the rare case that receiving structurally focused chiropractic care is not improving your secondary conditions, it may be time for another exam to rule out any trigger points which may be the primary condition. It may also be possible that the trigger points are so severe or have been chronic for so long that they are not allowing the primary condition, an abnormal spinal shift, which initially caused the trigger points, to be corrected.
Pushing Through The Pain
Trigger points can be tricky because so few medical doctors, chiropractors, and most physicians are aware of their existence or potential impact. It’s especially difficult to diagnose sometimes because trigger points can so accurately mimic sciatica or a disc bulge. Fortunately, once you’ve ruled out the other more common primary causes, it can be fairly easy to determine if trigger points are the cause of your pain.
Fortunately, trigger points have the distinct characteristic of being able to be safely worked on yourself, which we will cover next blog.