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Understanding Trigger Points and Holding Patterns


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Trigger Points and their role in Holding Patterns

A few years ago, I was stuck in an airplane for almost an hour, circling around Heathrow Airport in London, waiting for a “landing window.”

The captain informed us that we were in a holding pattern and should be landing shortly. I have thought a lot about this phrase ever since.

For me it neatly encapsulates the way I see a client when they present in the therapeutic setting.

Clients may come with acute or chronic symptoms, but, whatever the origin, the body’s myofascial framework adapts and changes in a protective “holding pattern.”

Over time the “normal” muscle functioning fails, often resulting in multiple trigger point formation.

The longer a problem persists, the more rigid these patterns may become. Chains of sarcomeres fail and chronic recalcitrant trigger points form.

Peripheral and central sensitization play a role in maintaining this holding pattern, but so does the adapted myofascial infrastructure.



It is important therefore to see trigger points in context: What is the body trying to achieve? Why has its tolerance/compensation broken down? Where and what is the central or core issue?

I encourage my students to think like detectives to find the “tissues that are causing the symptoms” and then reflect and observe how the body has adapted over time to compensate.

This requires a holistic view of the patient’s body, organs, bones, and supporting tissues, as well as their posture, nutrition, occupation, psychological state, and general wellbeing.











This trigger point therapy blog is intended to be used for information purposes only and is not intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment or to substitute for a medical diagnosis and/or treatment rendered or prescribed by a physician or competent healthcare professional. This information is designed as educational material, but should not be taken as a recommendation for treatment of any particular person or patient. Always consult your physician if you think you need treatment or if you feel unwell. 




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Scraping, a manual, ancient practice where pain points are worked with a gua sha (smooth-edged tool), reportedly increases blood flow by up to 400 per cent more than foam rolling and massage guns. By breaking up old, damaged blood vessels to promote new growth and healing, these tools are useful for getting into the nooks and crannies of a pain point, especially in delicate areas like along the shin muscles and under the foot.

Tim Tian has taken the scraper idea and supercharged it, creating a manual, triangular tool that blends heat and vibration therapy. “Cold blades stiffen muscles, blocking a deep release,” he says.

The heated scraper device takes just three seconds to reach 50ºC. This helps muscles soften, making it easier to massage away tension, increase blood flow and promote healing. The scraper is specially great for alleviating delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) in the quads, and provides a relaxing switch-up from the foam roller slog.