Trigger Point and Muscle Research

This past week I was away from my practice, computer and writing so that I could travel to upstate New York with my father to research the trigger point technique that we practice.

We practice Nimmo, or Receptor Tonus Technique. It is a technique that was developed by Dr. Raymond Nimmo in the 1950’s. It was developed parallel to another trigger point technique that was developed by Janet Travell. Janet Travell was President John Kennedy’s personal physician.

Travell’s technique differs from Nimmo’s in their approach to treating trigger points. Travell promoted spray and stretch (a technique to cool the muscle and then stretch it out), while Nimmo uses palpation and pressure to get rid of the trigger points. Towards the end of Dr. Travell’s life she felt that the manual palpation and manipulation of trigger points was a more effective way to treat them, rather than the spray and stretch.

The Nimmo technique is a neurological approach to treating trigger points. Trigger points, or muscle knots, form in muscles in response to stress and injury.

Repetitive motions, keeping a muscle in a contracted state for a prolonged period, and trauma are all ways that a muscle can form a trigger point. A trigger point forms when a muscle is torn on a microscopic level by the above mentioned reasons.

When a muscle tears it will reflexively contract to prevent further tearing. It will contract so hard that it will establish a neurological pathway between itself and the spinal cord. It is this pathway that will perpetuate the muscle spasm and keep it going. The Nimmo technique cuts off the nuerological input that perpetuates the muscle spasm and increases blood flow to the area which decreases inflammation. The technique gets the muscle, or muscles usually, out of the pattern of spasm and inflammation which balances out the body and allows the muscles to heal properly.

I have been practicing this technique for over 12 years now. Through this technique I have been able to work with muscles and muscle injuries. I have learned  the patterns that the muscles fall into when injured and the patterns to prevent injury. I have also been able to observe how muscles most easily get injured and how to heal them and prevent further injury.

You may wonder what your muscles have to do with pain and injury and arthritis and other joint issues. Muscles are affected by, and affect, most pain processes in our body.

Even if you have gastro-intestinal issues, muscles can become part of the problem. It is well documented that there are visceral-somatic connections. This means that there are neurological connections between the organs in your gut (viscera) and the surrounding musculature (somatic). This means that if you have an issue with any of your organs, they can irritate the surrounding muscles.

Once the muscles surrounding your abdomen become irritated they become part of the pain process and can cause hip, low back, mid back and even upper back pain. It is like adding salt to the wound. If you are suffering from gastro-intestinal distress (like from a flair up of Chron’s disease, irritable bowel, pancreatitus, etc) having low back pain along with it just makes the problem worse.

If you suffer from arthritis, the muscles will become involved as well. Arthritis will alter the way you move and use a joint. It will cause you to use the affected joint differently and therefore put more stress on the muscles that are compensating for the irritated joint by taking stress off of the irritated joint. Every step you take you are using hundreds of muscles to facilitate that movement. If one of the muscles is off or tight or irritated, it will cause other muscles involved in that motion to
compensate. Eventually using the muscles in this altered way will cause the muscles to slowly tighten up over time until they get irritated, pulled and strained or sprained.

A strained or sprained muscle may not seem that bad, but it can be. Sprains and strains can take as long as a fracture to heal, and can be more painful than a fracture. Injured muscles alone can cause severe pain in any area of the body. You have muscles everywhere in your body. Anything that moves in your body is being moved by a muscle (except on a molecular level).

With this in mind, you can get muscle pain anywhere in your body. Muscles alone can be responsible for radiating pain down into your leg and foot, into your arm and hand. Muscles can be responsible for some of the pain that is associated with many disease processes. If the muscles aren’t directly involved in the pain process, they will be affected by the pain and then become part of the pain complex.

If you want to get rid of pain, you have to address the muscles. You can loosen them and calm them down by doing yoga, ti chi or gentle stretching. You can go to a chiropractor who can balance out your body and calm down your pain which will prime you for exercising. If you try to strengthen up a tight and irritated muscle you will only make the muscle more tight and irritated.

My father and I went to upstate New York to my old Chiropractic school, New York Chiropractic College, to study muscles and the effects of our trigger point therapy on muscles.

We measured the tautness (or tightness) of a muscle using sheer wave ultrasound technology. We measured the tautness before and after treating a trigger point. It was amazing to see the inside of a person’s muscle who is sitting right next to you.

We were able to show that the muscle tautness did respond to the trigger point therapy, and the muscle did loosen up afterwards. It was amazing to see what you practice and believe in being proven in a lab.

We were also at New York Chiropractic College to teach Nimmo trigger point technique to chiropractic students. We want to get as many chiropractors out there doing this trigger point therapy to help alleviate all of the sore and inflamed muscles out there.

In a past experiment on muscles, it was proven that the tightness of a muscle will respond to working on other surrounding muscles. This means that the tone of a muscle can be affected by the tone of other muscles. This proves that releasing a tight and irritated muscle can alleviate other tight and irritated muscles.

I interpret this one step further meaning that if you exercise one area, it can affect other areas as well. It is amazing to see how everything in the body is connected. I say to my patients that it is really cool to see from a clinical standpoint how everything is connected. But when it is happening to you, it is not so cool. Like when you sprain an ankle and limp on it for a few weeks which causes you to then throw out your low back from limping. Then you irritate your neck and shoulders from compensating for your low back.

Everything is connected. And approaching the body with that in mind will make your workouts much more productive and keep you feeling better. That is the Pain Free way.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *