trigger-point therapy

Many clients deal with persistent pain and discomfort on a daily basis. Massage therapists have many tools available to help, and trigger-point therapy is one particularly effective treatment for many clients.

What Are Trigger Points?

A trigger point, according to Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: The Trigger Point Manual, by Janet G. Travell, M.D., and David G. Simons, M.D., is “a focus of hyperirritability in a tissue that, when compressed, is locally tender and, if sufficiently hypersensitive, gives rise to referred pain and tenderness.”

Clients may present with what may seem like untreatable aches and pains, which are actually caused by trigger points. By addressing trigger points with appropriate techniques, trained therapists can identify and help relieve the root cause of clients’ pain.


How Trigger-Point Therapy Works

Trigger-point therapy applies pressure to client’s muscles to release these pain-causing points and bring long-lasting pain relief. The massage therapist identifies points of muscle pain, where stiff or uncomfortable knots have formed. The therapist then uses her fingers to apply gentle and consistent pressure to these points. The applied pressure typically lasts for seven seconds per point and is then released.

Clients may receive therapy for multiple trigger points during the same session, and return for subsequent sessions if the pain persists. Initially, the process may be painful and cause further discomfort. Eventually, though, the therapeutic use of pressure on these points may promote healing in that area of the body.

“If the massage therapist can eliminate trigger points, and then the client’s presenting complaints disappear, that makes you a better massage therapist,” said Ariel Hubbard, a massage therapist, founder of the California Academy for the Healing Arts and CEO of Hubbard Education Group. In June 2015, Hubbard made a brief video introduction to trigger points that was featured by MASSAGE Magazine, which you can view here.

“It’s important for massage therapists to have a wide variety of skills, so that they can address a wide variety of health issues,” she said.


Get the Training You Need

Training programs that teach trigger-point therapy techniques are available in-person and online.

Hubbard recommends therapists use resources such as those provided by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (NCBTMB) to find out more about training and certification requirements. Hubbard’s organization, Hubbard Education Group, also offers continuing education courses in trigger-point therapy.

She said trigger-point therapy training may be offered as a 150-hour program, as part of a larger training program, or as part of myofascial release training.

“Some people consider trigger points to be a part of myofascial release. That’s how I learned it. So they usually incorporate trigger points into a larger myofascial release educational structure,” said Hubbard.

Your local area may have unique requirements, so it is best to find out what is needed where you practice before you register for a new program.


Marketing to Clients

Trigger-point therapy is best offered as part of a range of different therapies and modalities, Hubbard suggests. Additionally, clients often request trigger-point therapy when they hear positive testimonials, so ask for clients’ feedback and their permission to publish it on your website, and in brochures and other marketing materials.


Benefits and Contraindications

In her own practice, Hubbard has seen clients who experience improvements in mood and range of motion; fewer migraines; and even relief from depression. While trigger-point therapy is not a miracle cure and should not be used or recommended as a substitute for medical treatment, many clients feel noticeable relief.

Relief is not necessarily immediate, however, and not every client benefits from trigger-point therapy. In fact, some clients may notice painful sensations during this type of therapy. Hubbard suggests that therapists explain this possibility to pain-sensitive clients. Under certain client health or emotional circumstances, trigger-point therapy should be avoided.

Hubbard noted that trigger-point therapy is contraindicated for clients who are seeking a relaxation massage; those who have recently received tattoos or undergone surgery; people who are ill, frail, or suffering from edema or cardiovascular disease; and clients currently undergoing medical treatment.

Trigger-point treatments may also be contraindicated for cancer patients, those with severe osteoporosis or atherosclerosis, people taking blood-thinning medications, and clients who have had a hip replacement, spinal fusion or decompression, or a diskectomy, according to Trigger Point Therapy for Low Back Pain, by Sharon Sauer, C.M.T.P.T., L.M.T., and Mary Biancalana, C.M.T.P.T., L.M.T.


Learn, Practice and See the Results

You may impress your clients with the pain-relieving power of trigger-point therapy. As one more valuable addition to your service offerings, you may also be amazed by its career-boosting power.


About the Author

Kaitlin Morrison is a freelance health and wellness writer living in Moses Lake, Washington. A former chiropractic assistant and health care publicity person, she now follows her passion of informing and educating her readers about health care, business and marketing.