Dealing With Trigger Points – A Health Guide for People With Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a disease characterized by muscle pain in so-called multiple trigger points or tender points. Aside from prevalent deep muscle pain, this condition also results into fatigue and mental depression.

The term “fibromyalgia” originated from Latin word “fibro” or fibrous tissue and Greek terms “myo (muscle) and “algia” (pain).

What are trigger points?

Fibromyalgia Trigger PointsTrigger points pertain to localized regions of tenderness around joints. Pain results when pressure is applied to these trigger points.

Usually, trigger points or tender points are not deep areas of pain. Most notable areas include those just over the elbow or shoulder and in similar superficial areas just underneath the skin.

How large are the pain-sensitive areas of trigger points?

Trigger points are actually small regions, with size not exceeding that of a penny. However, these trigger areas are more sensitive to pain than their surrounding regions. As a matter of fact, applying a slight pressure on trigger points will cause a strong sensation painful enough to cause a person to flinch or pull back. Such sensitive regions are distributed across the back, chest, neck, elbows, buttocks, hips and knees.

What causes painful trigger points and tender points?

The causes of pain in tender points are not fully understood.  Contrary to the initial assumption that painful tender regions were inflamed, diagnostic analysis of tissues revealed no signs of inflammation on these areas. What is certain is that the locations of trigger points are predictable. Since trigger points occur in specific areas, symptoms associated with it are somewhat similar. This is especially true in fibromyalgia cases.

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How is fibromyalgia diagnosed from tender points?

Painful trigger points can be tested during a medical check-up. However, patients should also detail the exact pain felt in trigger points. Physicians should also be informed about other symptoms of fibromyalgia, including fatigue, deep muscle pain, and sleep disorders, depressive disorder, and irritable bowel syndrome, among others.

Failure to communicate all fibromyalgia symptoms with the diagnosing physician will lead to inappropriate or ineffective treatment. Inaccurate diagnosis is likely to deliver medications that offer ineffective relief from chronic pain and other discomforts.

The standard diagnosis of trigger points involves checking other control points or non-tender points throughout the body to compare physiological responses to both trigger and non-trigger points. There is also a diagnostic instrument especially used for such purpose, called “doximeter” or “dolorimeter.” Diagnosing physicians apply pressure to trigger points using this instrument.

How many trigger points are affected by fibromyalgia?

The human body has 18 tender points important for the diagnosis of fibromyalgia. They can be found in various regions across the body. Fibromyalgia affects 11 of these 18 tender point sites. Fibromyalgia is also characterized by widespread pain that has been present for three months at the time of diagnosis.

What are the available treatments for painful trigger points caused by fibromyalgia?

A combination of various therapies effectively relieves fibromyalgia-induced pain. Treatments for painful trigger points may include both alternative therapy and conventional medications. In some cases, fibromyalgia pain and fatigue respond to anti-depressants in low dosages, though how such treatment works remains obscure. Traditional treatments for fibromyalgia and trigger points include prescribed drugs, exercise therapy, daily stress management, rest and hydrotherapy using heat and ice. Remedies for symptoms are also available.

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What home remedies can be used to manage painful trigger points?

When it come to managing fibromyalgia and trigger points, alternative treatments are as important as conventional medications.

Therapeutic massage works by manipulating soft tissues and muscles. As a result, pain, stress, spasms, and muscle tension are eased.

Applying moist heat twice a day also remedies deep muscle pain and stiffness. Moist heat treatment can be in the form of warm bath, heating pad, a heat “cozy” warmed in the microwave or relaxing in a Jacuzzi.

Stress management plays a critical role in preventing and treating fibromyalgia and trigger points. Stress levels should be controlled and monitored regularly. Proper time management is needed to ensure that tasks or commitments are manageable so as not to cause stress. Fibromyalgia patients should also allocate relaxation periods each day to ease stress and fatigue. Deep-breathing exercises, guided imagery, and other relaxation exercises are also valuable in fibromyalgia management.

Having adequate and regular sleep is a must. It is during sleep that the body undergoes restorative and healing processes. Exercising regularly also helps in improving pain, depressed mood, and other discomforts caused by fibromyalgia.

What are the factors that worsen fibromyalgia symptoms such as painful trigger points?

People with fibromyalgia should be aware of the factors that worsen painful trigger points:

  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Weather changes
  • Depression
  • Changes in hormone levels
  • Inadequate sleep
  • Physical exhaustion
  • Emotional stress
  • Infectious diseases
  • Physical inactivity
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