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Points of progress

May 28, 2009

My Italian grandmother packed a powerful cheek pinch. This excruciating tweak was invariably accompanied by her acclamation, “Bigga gella!” The enduring value of my grandmother’s cheek pinches was that they prepared me for trigger point therapy.

I began reading Claire Davies’s book, The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook, five days ago. I had to work hard to overcome the temptation to read Chapter 6, which deals with elbows, arms, wrists, and hands, first. But after initially giving in to that temptation, it was evident that the book presents its material in a systematic and well organized sequence, and it deserves to be read in the order in which it is written.

At this point I have read and worked from the beginning through Chapter 6, and while I may not have the true-believer zeal thing quite yet, I do think that trigger points play a significant part in all chronic pain, even where medical diagnoses are justified. Trigger points may also be the underlying cause of symptoms that mimic other diagnoses, i.e., carpal tunnels syndrome.

So far, I have used my hands and TheraCane and followed Mr. Davies’s trigger point scheme to wrestle two migraines to the ground before they bloomed, and to temporarily alleviate some back flares. My arms, from elbows to fingers, still have pain, stiffness, and tingling. But since working on the trigger points associated with these sites, the pain is nowhere near the level that brought me to tears a week ago. I am willing to declare victory and triumph at this early stage. I can’t know that trigger point therapy will bring an ultimate solution, but I can’t know that an ultimate solution exists.

Whether or not you are a veteran of chronic pain, it may seem weird to think of a “good pain.” Trigger point work hurts, no question. It smarts like your grandmother’s cheek pinch. But it feels weirdly good, too. And then it still hurts after that. But after a little while, you notice that the initial pain has subsided. It didn’t go away forever. But you have some relief.

By the time you’re desperate enough to begin jabbing away at painful points, your trigger points are likely embedded in ancient bedrock. They take time and patience to excavate. If I have doubts about this method, they are whether the trigger points will ever fully release, or whether they will always be with me. But even if repeated work is necessary forever, who wouldn’t be grateful for palliative relief without drugs?

In the course of reading Mr. Davies’s book, I found trigger points for many painful areas that I’ve had off and on for years. I have learned that the burning pain on my scalp, that I have fondly referred to as “the Comanche scalping party” has its origin in trigger points in my suboccipital muscles. Another point, one that feels like a burning poker behind my ear, has its origin in my grandmother’s old target area, my masseter muscles.

The thing about trigger points is that the point of pain is usually not the site of the active trigger point. Trigger points refer pain to other areas. That is why systematic study is necessary: it is not helpful to simply attack the point of your pain; the object is to defuse the pain by attacking the referring trigger point.

It’s important to remember that persevering pain is not a setback. The fact of low times should not offset the fact of progress. Progress means any improvement for any moment in time at all. From everything I’ve read about repetitive strain injuries, progress is just really slow. A lot of chronic pain and disability persist even where every medical modality was pursued.

The huge advantage of trigger point therapy, if you’re willing to learn and persevere with it, is that you can do it for yourself, when you need it, any time, for free. You may need help if your hands are wracked, but as you progress, your hands should become more capable. At least this is my early aspiration…today.

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One Comment
  1. heidi permalink
    May 29, 2009 6:38 am

    Lauren this brought a huge smile to read — I’m just so grateful that there has been improvement in the pain. What an excellent review of the info in the book: I will try to learn more about this. It sounds very valuable to know.

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