man releasing traps on blue peanut trigger ball

You’ve probably heard that you should go for massages or do self-myofascial release to loosen up your muscles, improve recovery, and keep soreness at bay.

But what are the mechanisms behind these effects, and what are trigger points? More importantly, can we release trigger points and reap benefits, or is this a myth?

Let’s explore.

What Are Trigger Points And What Does It Mean to Release Them?
Trigger points are small and tender bumps that form in our muscles. We can go a long time without ever realising we have trigger points until we go to a therapist or try self-myofascial release with a foam roller or trigger ball.

Eventually, a trigger point can grow large enough to cause problems, such as pain, restricted blood flow, and muscle tightness.

Releasing a trigger point means to untie the knot that’s developed. There are two primary ways to release a trigger point. The first way is to stretch the muscle, allowing build-up waste to dissipate and fresh blood to enter the area. The second way is to place pressure on the trigger point and release it through massaging motions. This is where massages come into play. Alternatively, you can attempt to release tight points with a trigger ball or something similar.

Releasing a trigger point typically starts with more pain because of the increased sensitivity. But as you persist, the pain lessens as the trigger point gets released.

Are Trigger Point Releases Effective?
Research is yet to fully understand the role of massages, stretching, and self-myofascial release in recovery and muscle health. But yes, trigger point releases are effective and beneficial for us.

A trigger point can occur because of many things:

  • Overusing a muscle
  • Maintaining poor posture
  • Vitamin deficiencies
  • Ageing

The primary issue is, releasing a trigger point typically doesn’t get rid of the underlying causes. For instance, if you do a lot of weight training, new trigger points will likely occur in the future. So, the process is ongoing, and you need to be consistent with myofascial releases and stretching to stay flexible and ache-free.

It’s also important to understand all causes of trigger points. For instance, if you work a desk job, sit all day, and experience more trigger points around your neck and upper back, try improving your sitting posture and see if that reduces the frequency of new trigger points.

How Do Trigger Balls Loosen Up Tight Muscles?
Trigger points are these small and often palpable nodules that form inside our muscles. Massage therapists go through a lot of training to learn how to find and release trigger points, but we can also use a trigger ball.

Instead of having a therapist press on your muscles, you press yourself against a trigger ball in an attempt to dissipate it. You can do that against a wall, the floor, or by pushing the ball into a muscle with your hands.

The goal with self-myofascial release is to trap individual knots and apply consistent pressure until you release them. You should begin with medium pressure, so the pain is manageable. As you get used to it, you can put more pressure until you resolve the issue.

Common areas that typically benefit from a trigger point release are the neck, upper back, buttocks, and feet.

October 15, 2021 — Daniel Felstein

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