Illustration typifies myofascial trigger points in a man's neck, mid-back, and low back musculature. Photo Source: 123RF.com.
With all the stress and busy lifestyle we have today, it is common for most of us to experience pain and discomfort. Muscle pain has been affecting a lot of people in their jobs and daily living. A kind of pain known as myofascial pain can lead to worse conditions when neglected. However, due to medical innovations and the continuous search for better alternatives of medications, myofascial pain can now be alleviated and managed. One of the known solutions is cupping massage.
What is Myofascial Pain?
A comprehensive definition and description of myofascial pain are stated in an article by WebMD, which says:
“Myofascial pain syndrome (MPS) is a fancy way to describe muscle pain. It refers to pain and inflammation in the body's soft tissues. MPS is a chronic condition that affects the fascia (the connective tissue that covers the muscles). It may involve either a single muscle or a muscle group. In some cases, the area where a person experiences the pain may not be where the myofascial pain generator is located. Experts believe that the actual site of the injury or the strain prompts the development of a trigger point that, in turn, causes pain in other areas. This situation is known as referred pain.”
There are also several factors that may cause this type of pain such as repetitive motions, injury to the muscle fibers, and lack of activity of the muscles.
Healthline.com also mentioned that myofascial pain refers to a chronic pain condition that affects the musculoskeletal system.
Symptoms and Risks of Myofascial Pain Syndrome (MPS)
Some people may experience muscle pain and then noticed that the pain goes away after a few hours. However, some pains may require proper attention to get the right treatment. When it comes to myofascial pain, here are the common symptoms to watch out for:
- Pain that gets worse when the affected area is stretched or strained
- Having painful knots in the muscles when being pressed
- Mood or sleep disturbances
- Muscle pain that gets severe or does not get better over time
- Muscles that are stiff, weak, lacking flexibility and having a reduced range of motions
Generally, myofascial pain can be caused by muscle injury (trauma), muscle overuse, and psychological stress. Other factors that contribute to this kind of pain are the following:
- Prolonged sitting in awkward positions
- Lack of movement and exercises
- Deficiency in nutrients needed by the body
- Poor posture
- Lack of sleep
- Changes in hormones
- Other conditions related to inflammation and pain
- Injury to intervertebral discs and musculoskeletal system
- Severe cooling of muscles (like when you’re sleeping inside in an air-conditioned room)
- Generalized fatigue
Mayo Clinic also discussed that there can be complications related to myofascial pain. One is having sleep problems. When an individual is experiencing myofascial pain, he/she may experience difficulty in getting a good night’s sleep. When you move while sleeping, trigger points may be affected and the pain may get worse.
Another complication is fibromyalgia. As stated by Mayo Clinic,
“Some research suggests that myofascial pain syndrome may develop into fibromyalgia in some people. Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that features widespread pain. It's believed that the brains of people with fibromyalgia become more sensitive to pain signals over time. Some doctors believe myofascial pain syndrome may play a role in starting this process.”
When it comes to myofascial pain syndrome, there are sensitive spots known as “trigger points”. These are the areas that develop in the fascia (the taut, ropey bands of the muscles).
What do you need to know about Trigger Points?
PainScience.com published an article dealing with comprehensive information about trigger points and myofascial pain. A part of the article stated:
“Trigger points (TrPs) or muscle “knots” are sore spots in soft tissue that cause deep aching. Too many of them is often called myofascial pain syndrome (MPS), a chronic pain disorder. TrPs might be micro-cramps, but the science is half-baked and their nature is controversial. Regardless, these sore spots are as common as pimples, often alarmingly fierce, and they seem to grow like weeds around injuries. They may be a major factor in back and neck pain.”
For a better understanding of trigger points, you can check this chart as shared by Healthline.com.
It is crucial to learn the role of trigger points in myofascial pain to ensure that proper treatment for myofascial pain will be implemented.
Are Trigger Points the same as muscle spasms or strain?
Definitely NOT. A spasm is a violent contraction of the whole muscle, while trigger points are contractions only in a small part or specific portion of a muscle.
How knots are formed?
Muscle inflammation can be caused by repetitive strain or lack of muscle activity. When muscles are stressed or injured, they often form “trigger points” that feel like a tight knot in the muscle tissue. Pressure on a trigger point causes the muscle fibers to shorten and be painful to the touch.
When trigger points form in our muscles, symptoms may include stiffness, pain, tension, and the loss of normal function.
Factors that Make us Vulnerable to the Formation of Trigger Points
There are various factors that can contribute to the formation of trigger points and worsen myofascial pain.
Included in these common factors are the following:
- Poor posture, especially when sitting.
- Heavy lifting for a longer period, such as carrying a baby or dead weight lifting.
- Tensed muscle caused by physical and emotional stress.
- Injuries involving car accidents, falling from a tree or collision when playing sports such as basketball.
- Inactive physically such as sitting or bed rest.
Cupping for Trigger Points
Did you know that there is an ancient technique that can aid in the treatment of trigger points for alleviating pain?
According to Integrative Health Care, there is a more effective approach to relieve myofascial pain – cupping therapy.
“It has been shown that a more effective way to release trigger points is to apply a series of strokes across the point and the taut band, flushing out the blood and lymph while allowing fresh blood to move into the tissue. This technique removes cellular waste from prolonged muscle contraction while bringing in fresh nutrients and oxygen. This new technique is a more effective method for releasing trigger points, both active and latent.”
Cupping should be applied to the trigger points properly; thus, this should be done by an expert using high-quality cupping materials.
Can you imagine how effective cupping is for your lower back pain as well as other pains that you may experience? As we may already know, cupping is done by creating a vacuum on the skin to draw the soft tissue and muscles up into the cup.
In cupping therapy, the pressure is applied to the points that are causing you pain. Then, the blood flow begins to increase in the area within the vessels and capillaries. This process eases the muscles and helps to supply nutrients and oxygen that your body needs. By applying concentrated pressure to release these trigger points, the normal movement of muscles is restored. When Cupping Therapy is applied to tight rotator muscles, Myofascial Release is achieved. Stretching the thickened fascia away from the underlying structures allows greater movement and promotes comfort.
Cupping therapy creates a negative pressure suction over the twisted bundles of the trigger point. This is painless and without the excruciating pain due to force. It works to release the tension in the tissue in your body and in doing so can relax these sore muscles, ease your neck and back pain, and relax tired muscles. Cupping massage is the opposite of typical massage therapy. Cupping uses suction to tug the skin, tissues, and muscles upwards, instead of exerting pressure on the different points of the body for healing.
Apply the cup to the painful area with the use of oil to facilitate the gliding of the cup and increase the suction. Once suction is created, move the cup slowly along the area to achieve deep penetration of the fascia and underlying tissue to break up knots and congestion. Keep in mind that the slow movement was the key to allowing the suction to fully break up fascial adhesions.
You can feel the following changes in your body once you have experience cupping:
- Softening the tightened muscles.
- Supply oxygen and nutrients to the cells.
- Improving the blood flow of the muscles and tissues, and removing stagnation.
- Lifting the connected tissues.
- Opening the blockages of the lymphatic nodes.
- Stimulating and calming the peripheral nervous system.
According to the “Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine”, cupping can induce comfort and relaxation on a systematic level, and the result increases in endogenous production in the brain that leads to improved pain control.
A highlight of the study stated:
“There is converging evidence that cupping can induce comfort and relaxation on a systemic level and the resulting increase in endogenous opioid production in the brain leads to improved pain control.5 Other researchers proposed that the main action of cupping therapy is to enhance the circulation of blood and to remove toxins and waste from the body. That could be achieved through improving microcirculation, promoting capillary endothelial cell repair, accelerating granulation and angiogenesis in the regional tissues, thus helping normalize the patient's functional state and progressive muscle relaxation. Cupping also removes noxious materials from skin microcirculation and interstitial compartment which benefit the patient. Cupping may be an effective method of reducing low density lipoprotein (LDL) in men and consequently may have a preventive effect against atherosclerosis and cardiovascular diseases (CVDs).”
If you find yourself in pain and have used up all options that generally are used and have opted out of continuing the use of traditional medicine, then cupping is the solution that you are looking for.
The benefit of cupping is that we, in R&R offer a minimally invasive procedure that is easy to apply and give the clients immediate feedback. By incorporating the use of silicon cups when treating trigger points, we can offer the added benefits of increased movement in blood flow and the area especially back pain.
Rave & Rejuvenate Team.