Why is sore spot not necessarily the problem?

massage pointWhen it comes to muscles, there are two main reasons that pain or tension is caused by another area of the body; feedback issues from nerve compression or satellite referral via active trigger points.


If you have tension within your joints (hips, shoulders ect..) or areas with complex small muscle mass (neck), it is likely that you have some form of feedback issue in your extremities. Feedback refers to the nerve signal returning from your extremities to your brain, not the signal from your brain to your extremities. If nerves are compressed along the pathway back to the brain, the brain senses that there is a problem in the extremity due the nerve disruption. In actual fact, the extremity may be fine, however, due to the brain believing that there is damage of some form, the area is ordered to guard itself by tightening the muscles in the area. Short term this is not problematic, however, over a prolonged period of time this excessive tension results in muscular issues in the extremity (pain or weakness).

In treating this condition, it is not uncommon for a therapist to treat the local area of pain or tension, which does provide relief, however, if the compression causing feedback issue is still present the pain or tension will return fairly promptly.

Treatment for issues relating to extremities should always be treated from the point of referral outward, treating the catalyst before the presenting problem area.

Satellite Referral

Satellite referral is an effect caused by active trigger points in a muscle. Every trigger point has a specific referral pattern; however, at times this can change and puzzle therapists and practitioners, often resulting in poor diagnosis.

When a trigger point is active and referring for a long period of time, or the problem is more compound, due to injury etc.. the referred pattern from trigger point A will activate trigger points that fall within the initial referred pattern of point A and add their own referral range to the initial trigger point B referral, thus creating a domino effect.

Treating referral pain requires good knowledge of myofacial referral patterns in the body, muscular groups and connective tissues. Trigger point therapy and sports massage excel in treating this condition, so if this sounds familiar to you, then this is another option which you may not have considered.

Healing from your kitchen – Ginger soak/poultice for injuries and pain.

acupuncture gingerApart from having Acupuncture, people often want to know what they can do themselves to aid recovery from injuries, loosen tight muscles, or ease the pain of arthritis.

The answer is to raid your kitchen (or the local supermarket) for some ginger. This is the basis of a handy DIY external treatment that has excellent anti-inflammatory and muscle relaxant effects. It also acts as a mild irritant to the skin, increasing blood flow and mobilising the body’s own healing mechanisms.

I have used ginger soaks and poultices (medicated bandages) successfully for knee pain from osteoarthritis, low back pain, finger injuries, and thumb/wrist pain as part of an overuse syndrome.

If you’re thinking about using these techniques for arthritis, be aware that they are not suitable for rheumatoid or any other condition where the joints are hot and swollen. Also avoid using them if the skin is broken.


You’ll need:

  • A bit of fresh ginger roughly half as big as your thumb.
  • 2 saucepans or large bowls. If you are going to use it for soaking (best for the fingers, wrists, feet, or ankles), the bowl or pan needs to be deep enough to immerse the injury.
  • A cheese grater
  • A sieve
  • A small hand towel or flannel and a large towel to protect clothing, the sofa etc.


What to do:

Grate up the ginger and put it in a bowl or saucepan. Add boiling water and let the ginger steep for 10 mins. At the end of this time, add some cold water so that the temperature is hot but not intolerable. Strain into another bowl or pan to remove the grated bits of ginger (this is optional, but makes it less messy!).

For a soak, immerse the affected area for 10-20 mins. Periodically add more hot water so that the water temperature stays hot.

For a poultice, soak the flannel in the ginger solution, wring out slightly, fold into a pad and then apply it to the area. It usually feels best with a bit of pressure.

This works well for many injuries, but sometimes a stronger version is needed. This should not be used if you have sensitive skin. For this version, you grate up a bit more ginger – enough to cover the area. Put this directly on the skin and cover with a flannel soaked in hot water, and then wrap with cling film. It will usually start to feel quite hot after 10 mins or so – remove the ginger at this stage.

Local reactions to the ginger (like long-lasting redness or blistering) are rare, but if this occurs, do not use again.

Best results are achieved if you use these ginger treatments daily until the pain subsides. For stubborn conditions not relieved by ginger poultices and soaks, it is best to come in for assessment and treatment, as Acupuncture can be very beneficial for these conditions.


Benefits of Trigger Point Therapy

trigger-point-therapyTrigger Point Therapy focuses on relieving referred pain or sensation (pain, tenderness, pins and needles, numbness and burning). A trigger point is a point of bound / taught fibres in a muscle, often referred to as muscle knots, a point of heightened tenderness or sensitivity, which prevents full usage of a particular muscle. Active trigger points have predictable referral patterns, some causing pain locally to the effected trigger point, others referring to other regions of the body. Due to this referral, a domino effect in terms of pain or injury can occur if trigger points are left untreated; this meaning an area previously unaffected by referred sensation may become affected.


From a patients perspective.

Trigger Point Therapy is a compression of the point of tenderness, which temporarily heightens the sensation already experienced due to additional pressure being applied to the area. The pressure must be held and maintained in order to obtain a release; in terms of sensation, it feels as though the practitioner holding the point is slowly releasing pressure, in actual fact the point is releasing / relaxing, which gives a sensation of relief as muscle function is improved and referred sensation is reduced.


Trigger Point Therapy with Massage.

Massaging an area with active trigger points can be painful; however, when massage and trigger point therapy is combined a practitioner can release muscles far more effectively. Remedial massage greatly increases blood flow to muscles, while trigger point therapy releases regions within muscles with restricted blood flow, thus providing nutrients to depleted muscle fibres in a more effective fashion. Active trigger points create a local twitch response (often confused with a muscle spasm); if a trigger point is left active after massage it won’t be long before it becomes tight and sore again due this twitch response, as the muscle is over engaging. Releasing trigger points allows for far greater fibre release with slow / stretching massage, which increases range of movement and encourages capillary growth, resulting in healthier muscle fibres.

In terms of performance: Clients who I have treated with trigger point therapy gain longer periods of relief and suffer less issues with their lymphatic system in terms of acid and other waste build up in their muscles; this meaning greater endurance and performance. If you enjoy sport and like massage, this is definitely something to consider within your fortnightly to monthly massage. Note: Trigger points take time to release, so treatment should be focused on a specific area of the body, not all over, to get the best results.

Acupuncture Scar Therapy

Health In The Bay Scar TherapyWe all know how stubborn scars can be at healing. What you may not know is that scars can block the free flow of qi (energy) and blood as well as constricting the soft tissue. This can cause a number of seemingly unrelated complications that are not local to the area of scarring, such as neck, shoulder and back pain and headaches.

Do you need Scar Therapy?

Remember, not all scars will cause problems. Many do heal effectively. The best way to decide if a scar needs attention is to inspect it yourself through sight and touch.

Firstly, take note of the appearance of the scar and the skin around it. Is it a different colour? Is it bulging or lumpy looking? A purple or red colour is a good indication of blood or qi stagnation.

Secondly, palpate the scar by feeling around the perimeter (outside) of the scar (never push down on the inside of the scar) at an angle as if pushing underneath the scar. Feel for pain, tenderness, unevenness or numbness. These are indications that the flow of qi and blood are obstructed.

Does it feel itchy at times? This is normal in the first few weeks as the tissue heals after the surgery or trauma. But if it goes on for longer, scar therapy might help. If you do discover anything out of the ordinary this is a good indication that your scar has not healed effectively and you could benefit from Acupuncture therapy.


How does it work?

Acupuncture stimulates microcirculation improving blood flow to the area. It draws the body’s attention to the area of concern to encourage re-knitting of scar tissue. Other techniques such as moxibustion, herbal medicine and warming liniments can be used to improve circulation.


Does it improve the appearance of scars?

Acupuncture scar therapy can be applied to most scar types including acne, pox, injuries and surgery scars. It can make thick scars thinner, improve the colour and general appearance and reduce pain/numbness/tingling and itching. However, the final results depends on your skin type, the type of surgery or trauma, and how long you’ve had the scar.

A Knotty Problem

Health In The Bay Knot

It is likely that most individuals have at some point in time experienced sensations of pain and discomfort caused by “knots”, also known as Trigger Points. These are painful areas in the muscles that cause pain to refer into other parts of the body, as well as create symptoms of weakness and fatigue.

A Trigger Point is the body’s response to a physical, emotional or chemical disturbance where the muscle becomes contracted or over-lengthened for extended periods of time preventing it from returning to its rest position. This then restricts the movement of the muscle and decreases circulation. The muscle then becomes deprived of nutrients and oxygen, which results in a collection of metabolic waste.

The most common causes of Trigger Points are poor posture, structural imbalances, repetitive activity and overuse, emotional factors, and direct trauma or injury. These points can occur in any muscles of the body, but are most commonly found in the neck and upper back. Trigger points can themselves bring about a variety of issues, such as tension headaches, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), jaw pain, lower back pain and carpal tunnel syndrome.

Trigger Points can be effectively treated with massage therapy where direct pressure is applied to the area in question. Upon compression, the Trigger Point will often reproduce the individual’s pain pattern. As the muscle relaxes, the pain and discomfort should then diminish.

Self care is also important to help prevent the re-occurrence of Trigger Points. This can include using a heat pack when muscles are tense or painful, having hot baths after treatment, keeping well hydrated, and carrying out simple stretch and range of motion exercises. Your massage therapist will be able to assist you with such exercises, and is also there to answer any questions or concerns that you may have.