Trigger Points

My practice can be very esoteric. Five Element training taught me, in theory, that most illness can be traced back to the spirit.

I had an extensive debate about body versus spirit with some senior practitioners of the tradition, most of whom studied directly under J.R. Worsley. I was arguing that body and spirit influence each other but are separate, like a car and a driver. The more experienced practitioners felt that, instead, body and spirit lie on one continuum and cannot be seen as separate.

Maybe I will come to agree with them, but right now I stand by my car and driver analogy. While I can totally get behind the idea that the spirit is the source of many very physical woes, I do still get patients that I call “body” people. And for these types of patients, Five Element acupuncture is less effective. It just doesn’t get to them, they don’t feel it. “Spirit” people, however, are often very sensitive to energy and to acupuncture, and cannot handle the intensity of a more typical acupuncture treatment in the TCM style. These patients do wonderfully with spirit-level treatments, the hallmark of the Five Element tradition.

From the day I opened my practice, I realized I had to find some better tools for pain. Through trial and error and soul-searching and the help of some acupuncturist friends, I found some methods that work great for the “body” patients. These are patients whose problems are largely musculoskeletal and come from lifestyle issues, muscle overuse or physical trauma such as a sports injury.

My favorite tool for these types of physical issues is trigger point therapy. It’s magical, just as miraculous as Five Element acupuncture, but it’s also satisfyingly logical and effective. The key to trigger point therapy is having a good reference, and Travell and Simons’ two-volume set Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction is the bible of this style of treatment.

What trigger point therapy demonstrates so clearly is that the source of the pain is often not the site of the pain. A trigger point may be located in the belly of a muscle, but it pulls on that muscle and a patient will feel it at the weaker point which might be the muscle attachment. The classic trigger point maps are invaluable for tracking down the cause of any particular pain pattern.

I have had great luck with this technique with sports injuries, acute injuries, and overused or imbalanced muscle patterns that I often see with the dancers who come to see me.