Trigger Point Saved My Marathon Training (& my Jaw!)

A few weeks ago I mentioned I started using a trigger point kit on my exploding calf muscles. After a few days of excruciating achilles pain I went in to Running Wild and they helped me figure out that my larger-than-life (or at least larger than most cute boots) calf muscles were the culprit. I inherited my Dad's gene for beast calf muscles and they've always filled out quickly when I'm working out frequently. The problem was that their rapid growth left knots/scar tissue in muscle which prevented them from being able to have the range of motion they needed to. Limited range of motion + continual use = injury. So, the plan was to get the scar tissue out. For larger muscles like your hamstrings or quads you can easily use a regular foam roller for this. For the tiny muscles in your lower leg it's much harder to manipulate them with such a big bulky piece of equipment. Enter: The Trigger Point kit.

TP KitIt looks so small and innocent, yet anyone who has tried it knows it can bring you to tears almost instantly. I have been using it at least once a day (sometimes morning and night if I'm sore) and I have been injury free since I went in to Running Wild about a month ago. I'm 100% confident that I was able to go from an average of 15 miles a week, to running 35+ in a very short period of time without injury (after my Achilles issue) because of this kit. My parents came out a few days after I bought this and I showed my Dad (also a marathoner) how to use it and he said he went home and his calves were on fire. The premise of the kit is it gives you the ability to give yourself a deep tissue massage. So, just like when you have that done you really have to stay relaxed, breathe, and expect to feel very worked over when it's done!

Trigger points aren't just in your legs - they cover your entire body. Here are a few of the common sites of trigger points:

Trigger PointsThe amazing thing about trigger points is that you have no idea how interconnected the human body is until you start searching out where your pain is really coming from. For example - I've been dealing with chronic jaw pain/TMJ/bruxism (teeth grinding) for most of my adult life. It comes and goes but this last episode has been here for almost a month. I've been taking a cocktail of advil, tylenol, prescription steroids and muscle relaxants every day for almost 3 weeks (I know it's terrible - I hate having to take it.) I'm wearing a night guard at night to keep me from grinding. I take an ice pack with me to work just to use on my face. It has severely negatively impacted my quality of life.

My Mom has dealt with similar issues and she sent me a copy of a Trigger Point Workbook she used and saw good results from:

TP TherapyAfter having such success with my leg pain going away thanks to trigger points I welcomed the idea that the same could be done for my jaw. A few nights ago I took the book to bed with me and started reading through it. The book covers every possible trigger point so no matter where you have pain at in your body there is a section for you. I jumped straight to the jaw pain section and started trying out a few of their self-massage techniques.

One in particular focuses on the masseter muscle which is where my pain is centrally located.

Muscles in the JawIt's not very cute, but it involves inserting my thumb inside my mouth and massaging the muscle. I'd always try massaging the muscle from the outside, but it never seemed to effective. You can see a video of someone performing the masseter massage on someone else.

The first time I did it I started crying. It was a little painful, but not more so than any deep tissue massage. I was crying because of the immediate relief I felt. The next day I still had to take a few pain meds to get through the day, but it was significantly less. By day 2 I would go to the bathroom at work and do the massage any time I felt tightness coming on. By day 3 I was down to 2 advil a day and my jaw felt almost normal. In addition to massaging the massester I found that another common jaw pain trigger was tightness in the trapezius muscle. You can see in the image above how the trapezius connects to the neck/jaw. I have one knot in particular on my left trapezius that I've been working on a few times a day and it's helped so much with the clenching in my jaw. I think the knot is there because of poor running form (I tend to squeeze my shoulders up when I run.) I'm working on keeping my shoulders and jaw relaxed when I run and am confident things will only keep improving.

So, trigger point therapy in various forms has totally changed my life. If you suffer from chronic pain that may be related to muscles in any way I cannot suggest strongly enough that you check out the book or, if you are a runner, the trigger point kit (this one is specifically for calf issues but they have other kits.)

Have you ever tried trigger point? Do you have any areas on your body you think would benefit?