Back, shoulder and neck pain have plagued me for years, primarily due to the nature of my work and sitting at a computer for 12+ hours per day. I’ve learned to focus on prevention with stretching, trigger point massage (at home and professional) and natural supplements. This has reduced flareups significantly, but occasionally I still find myself trying to deal with back pain without medication.
Using Trigger-Point Therapy to Treat Back Pain
Trigger points are more commonly known as “knots”. They form in connective tissue and can cause pain at the trigger point or be felt in other areas of the body. One of my trigger points is at the inside-top of my shoulder, for example, but the pain and spasms reach across my shoulder and down my arm. My massage therapist focuses on the trigger point to gain control of the entire pain chain.
Problems may develop in trigger points due to improper posture, tight muscles from overuse or underuse, stress, accidents or surgery. However, the symptoms can mimic several serious health conditions. It’s important to consult with your doctor and receive a diagnosis before moving forward with this treatment.
Trigger-Point Therapy is basically the application of pressure on the trigger point. It’s easy to do it yourself at home if you know how to find its location. Referred pain can make that tricky, but learning how to track the referred pain pattern back to the point of origin will help. When you find it, pressing it will usually reenact the same discomfort and/or muscle twitching that you’ve been experiencing. Trigger points may also be behind problems with your eyesight, coordination, insomnia or migraines.
“The trigger point model states that unexplained pain frequently radiates from these points of local tenderness to broader areas, sometimes distant from the trigger point itself,” explains Wikipedia. “Practitioners claim to have identified reliable referred pain patterns which associate pain in one location with trigger points elsewhere.”
- If your backache is around (or between) your shoulder blades, check for trigger points in the Rhomboid minor and Rhomboid major muscles.
- Are you experiencing back pain patterns around the shoulder blade, neck or lower back, as well as diffuse pain in your back that worsens throughout the day? The trigger point may be found in the Erector spinae group of muscles.
- If you’re experiencing upper back pain along with pain in the side of your chest and a “stitch” when you run, the Serratus anterior muscle may be to blame.
- If the pain is in the middle of your back to one side and is accompanied by sharp pain in your shoulder and arm, your trigger point may be in the Teres minor or Latissimus dorsi muscles.
- Pain in the middle or lower back accompanied by indigestion can indicate a trigger point in the lower Rectus abdominis (six pack muscles).
You can apply pressure with your hands or use equipment, such as a trigger point massaging tool or ball. Trying to access your back can be a problem, so most use a tool like the Body Back Buddy. It’s the best gift I’ve ever bought for myself.
I found this method of natural pain management to be a little difficult to navigate at first. Now I use the book, Trigger Points by Amanda Oswald, provided by DK Canada. The detailed illustrations, expert advice and easy-to-follow format make it possible for me to find and fix trigger points from the comfort of home. There are no long, involved explanations to get in the way of the end goal: relieving the pain and preventing it from recurring. Simply go to the section that covers the pain you’re experiencing and address it. Using this “Little book of self care” is more effective, efficient and safer than trying to piece together reliable information on the Internet.
Continue to stretch and work your known trigger points after you’ve restored normal function, and you may never have to deal with severe back pain again. It works for me and plenty of other people, but you should be aware the scientific proof is a little scant.
“There is a lot of scientific uncertainty about trigger points,” writes Paul Ingraham for Pain Science. “It’s undeniable that mammals suffer from sensitive spots in our soft tissues, but their nature remains unclear, and the popular idea that they are a kind of micro cramp could be wrong.”
How Breathwork can Help Reduce Back Pain
I had heard breathwork can help reduce or eliminate back pain, especially if it’s caused by your posture or stress. Another “Little book of self-care” from DK.com confirmed that it can be quite effective.
Master this breathing cycle for help with back pain:
- Lie down, sit or stand in a comfortable position with your chin slightly lowered.
- Direct your inhale toward your tailbone and continue to inhale up the full length of your back and ribs, causing your lower ribs to lift away from your hips.
- Flatten your lower stomach while exhaling, which pulls it back slightly toward your lower back ribs.
- While still exhaling, bring your shoulders back and lengthen your upper back, extending your neck and head slightly upward.
- Repeat breathing cycle for a minimum of five minutes throughout the day.
“This process cultivates space between the bones of the back and elongates the curve of the spine,” writes Nathalia Westmacott-Brown in Breathwork. “It offers support to lower abdominal muscles and reduces neck and shoulder tension.”
The book, Breathwork, shows you how breathing exercises can help you work through physical and psychological challenges. The tips and processes are organized by condition or situation, so you can easily find what you need and do it at home.
IMPORTANT: Please consult with your doctor before using Trigger-Point Therapy or Breathwork to help treat your back pain.
Have you found a natural way to help reduce back pain? Please share your tips in the comments below.
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