Hint: It has nothing to do with a gun.

A trigger point usually consists of a small band of muscle which feels knotty. It is sometimes painful when touched, but the pain is often referred to another area of the body. A trigger point in the shoulder, for example, might cause a headache.

What causes a trigger point? Acute trauma or repetitive micro-trauma may lead to the development of stress on muscle fibers and the formation of trigger points. Trigger points are thought to be due to an accumulation within deep muscle of the waste products of physical activity. This causes localized muscle tension and spasm which may make the points feel like small nodules.

Patients may have regional, persistent pain resulting in a decreased range of motion in the affected muscles. These include muscles used to maintain body posture, such as those in the neck, shoulders, hip and pelvic girdle.

Trigger points may manifest as tension headache, jaw pain (TMJ), tinnitus (ringing in the ear), decreased range of motion in the legs, low back and neck pain. Trigger points have also been found to be related to shoulder pain, carpal tunnel, sciatica, hip/knee pain and foot/ankle pain. Usually, a physical therapist will ‘feel-out’ a hypersensitive bundle, or knot, of muscle fiber associated with a trigger point. Hands-on pressure of the trigger point will elicit pain directly over the affected area and/or cause radiation of pain toward a zone of reference and a local twitch response.

Physical therapy has been shown to be one of the most effective treatments to inactivate trigger points and provide prompt relief of symptoms. Physical therapy treatment, such as the strain/counter-strain technique, ischemic compression, cupping, massage, myofascial release, active release techniques, electrical stimulation, ultrasound, joint mobilization therapy and corrective exercises, are used to ease the tension, numbness and pain associated with trigger points.

The key to success with trigger point symptoms is to be consistent with therapy and to know what caused the tightness in the first place so that you can avoid it in the future.

The ASTYM System

We are pleased to announce that Foothills Sports Medicine has several ASTYM certified physical therapists throughout the Phoenix Metropolitan area.  The ASTYM system has been used in clinical settings by certified health professionals since 1996. But many of you may not know what ASTYM is really all about and how it can help you with chronic and acute injuries.

What is ASTYM?

ASTYM is a soft tissue mobilization technique that is designed to effectively treat scarring, fibrosis, and degeneration that can occur in soft tissues. This technique uses ergonomically designed instruments and can be very effective on both new injuries as well as chronic, nagging conditions. The ASTYM instruments are used along the surface of the skin to identify abnormal soft tissue areas and begin the body’s healing process. This healing response or inflammatory process results in the resorption and remodeling of scar tissue and/or abnormal tissue and helps to regenerate degenerative tendons.

ASTYM has been proven to be effective with a number of common orthopedic injuries including IT band syndrome, hip bursitis, shin splints, patellofemoral syndrome, medial and lateral epicondylitis (golfer’s and tennis elbow).

ASTYM has many advantages over conservative PT treatments. ASTYM often allows patients to remain active or continue to work while undergoing treatment. It also has an 88% success rate with patients, achieving improved function and decreased pain, even if the condition is chronic or previous treatment was not successful. It can reduce the need for surgical intervention and achieve maximum results with minimal treatments. Finally this technique has been supported by an extensive outcomes database, clinical experience, and most importantly, by scientific research.

The ASTYM technique may be mildly uncomfortable with some patients. ASTYM is applied to not only the affected or painful areas but to the areas above and below the injury that may be contributing to your condition. During the treatment, you may feel areas of “roughness”, which are the problem areas that will be addressed. As these areas become less rough or smooth over, the pain begins to decrease and improved function also occurs. It is not unusual to have some mild bruising or tenderness over the abnormal or “rough” areas; this is the first indication that the new healing response has started. A comprehensive stretching and strengthening program will also be introduced to help guide the healing process, rebuild healthy tissue, and ultimately, get you back to your desired activities without any pain or limitation.

In my first year of using ASTYM, I have had great personal success with my patients having chronic tendon injuries, plantar fasciitis, and other painful conditions. This technique is used to complement our manual and hands-on techniques, not replace them.

We have several clinics offering ASTYM treatment: Ahwatukee, South Chandler, South Gilbert, Old Town Scottsdale, Surprise, Arrowhead, Litchfield Park. Please click on a location near you to schedule a Rapid Recovery FREE assesment to see if ASTYM is right for you.