By Yoav Melamed, LMT with Kohala Village Bodywork
I hear a lot of people say “but I stretch a lot, how come I’m still in pain?”
My answer is that stretching is just half of the story.
The other half is getting rid of the trigger points.
You see, when a muscle is dysfunctional, it develops trigger points (TrP), which are essentially taut bands, or adhesions, in the fibers of muscles to connective tissue (fascia).
The TrP is a dysfunctional tissue within the continuity of fibers, where often capillaries are compressed, leaving the muscle hungry for nutrients, and sometimes nerve endings are compressed, leaving the muscle (or other muscles down the line) with limited communication from the brain, a state called “Sensory Motor Amnesia”, where we lose the full ability to engage or relax certain muscles entirely, forcing us to compensate and over-use other muscles.
Now, let’s say I feel some of this dysfunction as pain or fatigue, and I want to fix it. I go to a yoga class, or just do stretching on the rug at home. at the level of the muscle fibers, everything stretches but the dysfunctional tissue.
Just like a rope with a knot in it, if i stretch the rope, the knot actually gets tighter, while what is not-knotted is overly stretched, stretching a muscle with TgP can emphasize the problematic parts while making the already-ok parts hyper-mobile.
So, let’s say I intend to spend 15 minutes stretching. What if I spend 5 minutes getting rid of TrP (finding and pressing on the tight spots in the muscles using my hands, elbow, or a self care tool such as the back-knobber, jack-knobber or firm ball), thus opening up the fascial adhesions, “creating slack”, and then spreading that slack by stretching the muscles for another 10 minutes?
This way we are actually engaging the whole muscle, and exploring a whole new Range of Motion, functionally entering a new state of greater freedom where our wisdom body can express itself.
Next time you want to spend some time caring for your body, remember the two wings of stretching and getting rid of trigger points, to make your time so much more effective and successful.