Hurts So Good: A Beginner’s Guide Self-Myofascial/Trigger Point Release
Restoration and recovery – Trigger points
In this series we will be featuring some tools (techniques) and terminology which can be used for restoration and recovery. The more tools you have to maintain and promote growth and recovery from the stress that training places on the body, the more successfully you will achieve your goals.
#Old School – Muscles, it is old school to think of the body as compartments of muscles which stop and start and perform specific movements. Yip you should be thinking of the body as a connected organism which works in movements which groups or lines of tissues all connected to produce the movement.
#Old School – “I am stretching my hamstrings” vs
#New Thoughts – “I am mobilizing my superficial posterior line”
#Old School – Muscles vs
#New Thoughts – Fascia
#Terminology – Fascia
You may be noticing the word “fascia” (aka connective tissue) is a hot topic right now in all body related fields. ‘Fascia’ is a web like tissue that connects a variety of structures in the body together, the term ‘myofascia’ is a more commonly used term and relevant to this discussion, all this means is muscle (myo-) and its surrounding web of connecting tissue (-fascia).
So without further ado, here is some of the newly emerging information about fascia and how you can use it to maximize not just your athletic performance, but also just your plain old ability to feel good in your body.
Fascia is a tensional fluid system
Juicy fascia is happy fascia!
Think of it like a sponge, when a sponge dries out it becomes brittle and hard, it can easily be broken with only a little force because of how crispy it has become. However, when a sponge is wet and well hydrated it gets springy and resilient.
Physical Movement Is Essential for Healthy Fascia
Without adequate physical movement and exercise, the connective tissue structures start to overgrow, losing flexibility and suppleness, cellular hydration is also impeded. Or with overworking the tissue with repeatitive movemets. Overly tight fascia can even compress nerves and muscles, resulting in pain, either at the site or elsewhere in your body, via force transmission. The fascia is arranged in two layers, and when you move, those layers slide back and forth across each other. Healthy fascia has the ability to shift or slide about 75 percent of its total length.
Another fascinating fact about fascia: It responds and contracts — completely independently of the muscles, nerves and organs it surrounds — to chemical messengers. Even more interesting, Schleip has discovered fascia responds not only to chemical messengers of inflammation but also to chemicals associated with emotional stress.
Painful points are generated which can refer pain throughout the body.
Trigger points are caused by muscle injury. Muscles can be injured suddenly in accidents, or damage can occur slowly, due to repeated movements or poor posture. A muscle is composed of tiny fibers, which contract and relax in response to messages from the brain. When muscle fibers become injured or over stimulated, they cannot relax and form contraction knots. A trigger point consists of many contraction knots, where individual muscle fibers contract and cannot relax. Fibers, extending from the trigger point to the muscle attachments shorten, and form a tight band. The persistent contraction of muscle fibers compresses blood vessels and decreases their blood supply, leading to oxygen starvation and the accumulation of waste products. This irritates nerves and causes pain. Activated pain receptors generate specific referred pain patterns, depending on nerve passage and muscle anatomy.
The Importance of Water
Fascia also plays a crucial role in the movement of water. In fact, the connective tissue is made up of about 70 percent water, and physical movement helps keep this water moving. Hyaluronic acid acts as a lubricant for your connective tissue.
The less hyaluronic acid you have, the less mobile you are, as your fascia will be drier, less supple and less able to slide properly. Here again, movement has been shown to be a crucial component. Low water content in the fascia makes it brittle and less elastic.
How to release Trigger Points.
How to find a Trigger Point
Move your thumb over your any area of your body, the tissue should be soft and smooth, if you feel a tightness in an area, it will normal start to elicit pain and might even refer pain to a different area of the body. You have now found a trigger point!
Do not only explore the areas that you use for cycling, explore all tissue of the body, you might have developed a trigger point far away from your perceived muscles which work for cycling. Remember trigger points develop from life style habits – “sitting” etc
A trigger point map will follow in our next article.
1. Thomas W. Findley, MD, PhD, “Fascia Research From a Clinician/Scientist’s Perspective,” International Journal of Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork,(2011).
2. J.C. Guimberteau, “The Sliding Mechanics of the Subcutaneous Structures in Man Illustration of a Functional Unit: The Microvacuoles,” Studies of the Académie Nationale de Chuirurgie (2005).
3. J.C. Guimberteau, “The Sliding Mechanics of the Subcutaneous Structures in Man Illustration of a Functional Unit: The Microvacuoles,” Studies of the Académie Nationale de Chuirurgie (2005).
4. Robert Schleip et al., Fascia: The Tensional Network of the Human Body (Elsevier, 2012), 77.
5. Robert Schleip et al., Fascia: The Tensional Network of the Human Body (Elsevier, 2012), 77.