A Look at Shoulder Trigger Points
Trigger points, also known as knots, are a common source of pain and discomfort but are rarely taken seriously. Trigger points are a source of real pain and we are looking at how that type of pain impacts the shoulder, how we treat the pain in our office, and then some self-care tips for how you can relieve trigger point pressure in the comfort of your own home.
Let’s start with, what’s a trigger point? There are two types of trigger points: active and latent. An active trigger point is a point of pain that will actually refer pain to another part of your body without any sort of stimulation. For example, if you have an active shoulder trigger point you may have pain down your arm, or across your back. A latent trigger point only hurts when pressure is applied, but usually doesn’t bother you without that pressure. To determine what kind of trigger point you are experiencing, it is recommended that you see a specialist (like myself).
What causes trigger point pain in the shoulder? There are several ways a trigger point can be created. You may lift something heavy and later on start to feel pain. Repetitive action can also cause trigger points, and is commonly seen in pitchers, swimmers, and volleyball players, but can be seen in a desk worker who sits for long periods of time with their shoulders rounded forward (tight shoulders, anyone?). Perhaps you have a job that requires you to lift and move objects often, that kind of repetitive motion can bring on a trigger point. Let me also mention that visceral issues (internal organs) can also be a source of trigger points. If you are emotionally stressed, have arthritis, maybe an organ issue … things going on inside the body can manifest themselves as a trigger point.
What’s the Pain Presentation?
It’s pretty safe to say that almost every person on the planet has experienced pain from a trigger point at least once. Perhaps not in the shoulder, as we are discussing, but somewhere in their body. As I mentioned before, trigger points are very real and can present pain in several forms. The most common areas in the shoulder for trigger points to form are the top of your shoulder, rotator cuff, inside your shoulder blade, and the back of your armpit. Depending on its location, the point can refer to pain down your arm into your hands, which often mimics a nerve issue.
I urge you to share this information with as many people as possible. You, your friends, family, co-workers, whoever it may be doesn’t have to live with pain. Often times we believe the myth that trigger point type pain is just made up in our head. Not true. In fact, if not treated something like a latent trigger point could become active causing long-term issues for other parts of your body. Society has also bought into the self-limiting belief that trigger points just go away. Nope. The pain will often subside (when the active trigger point gets downgraded to a latent trigger point), but the trigger point itself does not go away. It will lie dormant until some activity causes it to become active again. And think about it, what if a trigger point is an indicator of something going on with an internal organ. That could be very serious. Don’t wait – see a specialist!
Putting Things in Motion
There are two main trigger points on the shoulder that we most commonly treat in the office: the backside of the shoulder blade and between the shoulder blade and the spine. Often times these two trigger points refer to pain down the arm, cause hands and fingers to go to sleep, etc. There are two active release therapies I use in the office to help relieve pain and allow the shoulder to move freely again.
The first is the Seat Belt Motion. While I apply pressure to the trigger point, the patient mimics the motion of putting on a seat belt. This allows us to work through the length of the muscle, releasing any adhesion, and help to alleviate the trigger point discomfort.
The second is the Punching Motion. I apply pressure to the inside of the shoulder blade while the patient makes a punching motion straight out and across the body. This helps with a greater range of motion, decreases pain, and actively releases the muscles around the shoulder blade. Check out my video demonstration of both motions.
I also recommend a chiropractic adjustment of the upper back and neck, along with the type of active release treatments. Combined, they play a vital role in the health of your shoulders. Additionally, our office offers Cupping Therapy and Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization (IASTM); a fancy way to say scraping tool.
A Self-Release Guide
First and foremost, please see a specialist to identify and properly treat trigger points. In between those appointments is when I highly recommend using some self-release techniques at home. To release two common shoulder trigger points all you need is a ball and wall. I recommend a Lacrosse ball because of its density. People often grab a tennis ball (too squishy) or a baseball (too hard), but I find the most effective ball of all is the Lacrosse ball.
The same two motions we use for active release in the office and can be used for self-release at home: Seat Belt Motion and Punching Motion. Technical, huh? But they are accurate descriptions of the types of movement to employ while actively pressing the Lacrosse ball between your shoulder and a wall. Please watch these two videos for how to properly self-release:
Give those a try, and see how that helps.
- Trigger points are real and they can cause real pain, and often times refer pain to other areas of the body.
- Trigger points are best treated through active release techniques by a specialist.
- Particularly with trigger points in the shoulder area, chiropractic adjustments to the neck and upper back can offer pain relief.
- Remember, you do not have to live in pain. Get your trigger points diagnosed and addressed.
Elite Chiropractic in Salt Lake City’s premier chiropractic center. Dr. Jordan has a holistic approach to treating his patients. Not only is he focused on the pain, but more importantly what is causing your pain. Elite chiropractic is the best choice for your health, wellness, and performance needs. Near I-215, the location makes it easy for anybody to find. Call us today to get back on track, stay in the game, and be on your way to achieving your goals. 801.432.7511.