Trigger point tools to release fibromyalgia pain

Everyone who suffers from fibromyalgia must have “trigger point” techniques available to relax their muscles.

by Betsy Timmerman — 

Healing from fibromyalgia requires a multifaceted approach. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies must be corrected; an acidic cellular state must be made more alkaline; muscles must be stretched and strengthened just so; sleep disorders must be rectified; and a proper food plan must be in place. Some people use a combination of natural and traditional medicines for their recovery, while others go “all natural.” Most experts in the field of fibromyalgia agree that the best outcomes result from integrative care.

Everyone who suffers from fibromyalgia must have “trigger point” techniques available to relax their muscles. The pain of fibromyalgia results from a sensitivity syndrome that develops in the central nervous system of all patients.

The sympathetic nervous system is overstimulated while the calming side of the nervous system, the parasympathetic nervous system, is basically in sleep mode and unable to adequately modulate the hyperactivity of the sympathetic side. As a result, people with fibromyalgia are in pain most of the time because the brain is inappropriately signaling their muscles to contract.

Using specialized tools and techniques to remove trigger points reduces the negative feedback from the muscles to the brain, which caused the tightening in the first place. Below are some examples of tools and techniques that eradicate trigger points. Combining these tools with light stretching can decrease pain significantly.

Gua Sha — This is an ancient East Asian technique used in the back country where doctors are hard to find. Gua Sha involves the use of a tool (a jar lid, a coin, smooth bone or plastic utensil) that is drawn over an area of pain or stiffness or over the entire back (the body’s yang areas) and extremities using a lubricant (olive oil, sesame oil, Vicks® VapoRub®). Gua Sha is typically used to relieve asthma, colds, migraines and a host of other body ailments, in addition to pain.

This drawing action creates a vacuum, which brings blood stagnation to the surface, allowing the circulation and lymph to flow more readily, eliminating pain and stiffness. Gua Sha is an easily learned, no-cost skill.

People with lots of toxins in their bodies and blood stagnation will see red dots or petichiae come to the skin’s surface. This redness typically dissipates within a week. After a session, “qi” or energy is said to flow again in these areas of stagnation released by Gua Sha.

The Journal of Pain Medicine reported on a German study in which Gua Sha was used for chronic neck pain and restriction. After one week of treatment, a 65 percent improvement in pain and range of motion was seen.

Through medical research, it has been concluded that Gua Sha increases microcirculation, which decreases myalgia. Pain is reduced by stimulating the body’s opioid system, and the direct effects of pain are minimized at nociceptors.

Thumping massagers — I know about this treatment first hand. Thumping massagers affect a deep-tissue massage, and if used in one location long enough, trigger points are quieted, and stiffness and pain are greatly reduced. For best results, this tool should be used daily for a couple of weeks in the more painful areas.

After two weeks of daily use, you can continue as needed for an amazing healing response. Although high-end stores sell massagers for $100 to $200, you can get a good quality massager for a lot less — probably in the $40 to $50 range.

LaserTouchOne pain device — In my 22 years of practice as a certified myotherapist, I have never experienced a more useful device. Developed for pain reduction in arthritis and fibromyalgia patients, this unit eradicates trigger points and increases microcirculation. The benefits of the device are usually evident for most users within a few minutes. Previously a prescription-only device, it has been available to the general public for several years now and is definitely worth trying, given its 93 percent success record.

Self-myotherapy — As a lifelong fibromyalgic and in the business of pain relief, this technique has saved me many times from the pains of fibromyalgia. Bonnie Prudden Myotherapy removes trigger points (which are rampant in the muscles of people with fibromyalgia) but has an added element to keep them from returning — corrective exercises that simultaneously stretch and strengthen the weakened muscles.

The pressure applied during myotherapy with knuckles, thumbs, bodos (hand-held wooden tool), shepherd’s crook or the Body Back Buddy™ temporarily interrupts nervous system hyperactivity and slows blood and lymph activity. When the pressure is released, microcirculation is amplified and lymph flows better, reducing trigger point activity and freeing up tight muscles.

Once you clear trigger points from an area of chronic pain, you must use gentle stretching and strengthening exercises to re-educate both the muscle and brain, or the pain will likely return. New signals and movements are needed to stop the inappropriate holding pattern set up in the brain to limit movement in an injured or perceived injured area.

While myotherapy is a direct outgrowth of the medical discipline of Trigger Point Injection therapy, it has an advantage in that the patient can take over the treatment by doing self-care to prevent trigger point recurrence.

These four tools can help you lead a better, less painful life. Try one or all of them to determine which works best for your body and your budget.


Betsy Timmerman is a certified myotherapist, exercise therapist, fibromyalgia educator, therapeutic lifestyle educator and certified hypnotherapist. She leads fibromyalgia workshops, designs fibromyalgia recovery programs and is the owner of EastWest Pain Solutions in Peoria, Ariz.  623-251-7547, 617-943-5570 or

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 31, Number 5, October/November 2012.

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