The human body is pretty incredible. When everything is working well, we go about our daily lives not even realizing the gift of pain-free movement. However, when we push ourselves to our limits or hold our bodies in less than ideal postures, we can experience pain. I bet you might even be holding yourself in an unfavorable posture while reading this article … head tilted down, upper back slumped over, and shoulders rounded forward.
When we continue these patterns, our muscles can become tight and constricted. We might feel stiff and achy. Our muscles can develop “trigger points,” which are spots along the tight muscles that are the most sensitive and painful. Blood flow can become restricted around the trigger points or they can interfere with nerve function. Sometimes the nerve interference is so intense that the nerve is “pinched” or compressed. Intense pain is more common in these cases and often pain will “shoot into” or be felt in other areas of the body. This phenomenon of pain being felt in other areas is called a “referral pain pattern.”
So, just because our knee hurts, doesn’t mean our knee is the origin of the pain. It could be from trigger points in our piriformis, a muscle underneath our glutes. The source of our shoulder and arm pain could be from trigger points in our scalenes, which are muscles in the front of our neck.
The good news is that there are holistic options out there that can provide relief without relying on OTC or prescription pain pills that only mask the pain and don’t address the root cause. Regular stretching, postural corrections, staying active, and hydration are incredibly helpful. Massage therapy is another great holistic option. Receiving massage from a therapist with knowledge of referral pain patterns increases the likelihood of you walking away feeling better.
All twelve of the Licensed Massage Therapists at Serenity Now Massage Therapy are Certified in Neuromuscular Therapy (NMT). If you’ve never heard of NMT before, then that certification probably doesn’t mean much to you, at least not yet. What it means is that they completed an extra 150 hours of study of referral pain patterns and specific techniques to find and relieve these painful trigger points. And even when you are receiving a less intense Swedish or Deep Tissue Massage instead of a Neuromuscular Therapy session, they are still using their knowledge of referral pain patterns to identify which tight muscles might be the source of your pain.
Neuromuscular Therapy begins with myofascial release (manipulation of the fascia, or connective tissue on top of the affected muscles) without oil or lotion. Clients often describe this part of treatment as feeling a bit “pinchy” but it encourages blood flow to the area. Next, lotion or oil is applied, and deeper pressure is used to loosen the muscles and prepare them for trigger point work. The trigger points are then located and released through compression from the therapist’s hands, fingers, thumbs and/or elbows as needed. Last, the therapist performs some assisted stretches to the affected areas.
If you think your pain may be stemming from tight muscles and trigger points, maybe it’s time to give Neuromuscular Therapy a try. I’ll admit I’m biased, but I know just the place.
Published in Cornelius Lakeside Living Magazine November 2019.