Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Pain Patterns Explained

You will be glad to know that I have not been slacking off; in fact I have had my head (ha ha) stuck in my anatomy books to make sure I can explain Pain Patterns, Trigger Points and Referred Pain to you in a coherent manner before we move on to some great Body-Work!

I am posting a few blogs on Head and Neck Pain over the next week or so and as I started writing the series at the beginning of the week I realised that before we get cracking you need to have a very clear idea of what I mean when I talk about pain.

Pain can be caused by all manner of things. Trauma (when you fall over, have a car crash etc), illness, disease, as well as emotional and mental problems can all cause us to feel pain. We feel pain through our Central Nervous System when our brain picks up the fact that something is not right within our bodies through nerve impulses. This is why it is so important to make sure that we get pain investigated by a medical practitioner. I cannot tell you how many times I have advised my clients to go and 'get a picture', either by asking the General Medical Practitioner to take a blood test, x ray or MRI scan. If your are suffering from pain, your doctor needs to know as it could be something that needs medical intervention and help. I am really great at massage therapy, but I cannot diagnose pain or cure you, nor can any other holistic therapist. However what I can do is help with soft tissue based Pain Patterns!

Pain Patterns are a very specific way of talking about the pain that muscles can create through out the body. We can thank the work of Dr Janet Travell and Dr David Simons who worked whole heartedly and thoroughly to scientifically research Trigger Points and their associated Pain Patterns. Their book is the basis of many texts written on the subject and all the knowledge I have concerning the material is based on their work.

Dr Janet Travell described a Trigger Point as “a hyperirritable locus within a taut band of muscular tissue and/or it's associated fascia”.

When you get a 'knot' in a muscle, or in your connective tissue (fascia), you can often feel it. Most people can run their hands over the top of their shoulders and feel a bump in the muscle that causes pain when they press down on it. Sometimes that 'locus', or bump, sends pain shooting up towards the head or down to the hand. Well, the bump is a Trigger Point and the pain you feel when you press on it is a Pain Pattern.

The Pain Patterns were mapped by Travell and Simons by injecting a saline solution into the trigger points of willing candidates. They then scanned them and found that common trigger points could be found in many people and that these Trigger Points send pain in the same 'pattern' though out the body. They painstakingly went through every muscle and mapped the common trigger points and the radiating pain, so we know have maps and illustrations to show us where to start looking for likely culprits!

As a Clinical and Sports Massage Therapist it is my job to find the trigger points that are causing you soft tissue based pain and treat them. I do this with a manner of different techniques including; hot or cold heat, fascia stretching, massage, compression onto the the trigger points, as well as muscular based stretching. Used in the correct manner and in the right way these trigger points can be treated very effectively and then the pain dissipates.

This type of treatment can be very quick in it's results and adequate home care can keep on top of any recurring issue. However I do have some clients who need to take a long time getting over the soft tissue trauma that they have received and it can take months to get on top of the pain.

Either way, I think massage is a very over looked tool in the treatment of pain in the U.K in both preventative and after care situations. I personally long for the day when the vast amount of scientific based research in soft tissue pain is taken seriously, but at the moment I will have to be patient!

To read more, do click on the following links for some great insight to fascia release, trigger point research and pain patterns.



                                                      Trigger Point information in depth 

If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to leave a comment and I will do my up most to answer you.

I look forward to publishing my posts on Head and Neck Pain and hope you will join with me on a great journey of nerd based body work. How cool!!

Disclaimer: This blog is not a diagnostic tool and I would advise anyone suffering from pain to seek medical help. I am a Soft Tissue Massage Therapist and not a clinician and am simply writing about pain from a soft tissue point of view.


Restart! : I'm doing well at looking after myself this week after two really bad junk food filled days last Thursday and Friday. I am eating more whole foods and drinking 2lts of water a day and have made sure that I walk into Godalming at least every other day. I will keep reading for tips on how to up the diet and keep you posted.

What I'm loving in the Treatment Room today: I have had a great week treating lower back pain and have really enjoyed working into the hips, buttocks and lumber regions. It's allowed my clients to really relax and move with more ease. Wonderful stuff!

Music of the day: Currently listening to my Study Classic; 'Sting – Mercury Falling' 

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