Massaging yourself might seem as useless as trying to tickle yourself. But if there is a good reason for rubbing your own muscles, it’s probably muscle “knots” or trigger points: small patches of clenched muscle fibres that are sensitive and cause aching and stiffness. They may be a major factor in many common pain problems like low back pain and neck pain. Most minor trigger points are probably self-treatable.
You can often get more relief from this kind of discomfort with self-massage than you can get from a massage therapist. Professional help can be nice — and sometimes essential — but it can also be cost-effective to learn to save yourself from trigger points. It is a safe, cheap, and reasonable approach to self-help for many common pain problems.
It’s also a controversial one: there is plenty of scientific uncertainty about trigger points. It’s undeniable that mammals suffer from sensitive spots in our soft tissues … but their nature remains unclear, and the popular idea that they are a kind of mini-cramp could be wrong.We don’t even know if massaging them actually works! Trigger point masssage is an experimental treatment for pain.
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