Monday, September 25, 2006

Myofascial Massage

It seems like there is quite a bit of confusion about what myofascial therapy out there, but I think I've got it figured out. I had thought this was the same as trigger point massage, but it actually deals with the muscle covering rather than the muscle itself.

Trigger points are chemically maintained contractions in the muscle and massage that moves these chemicals out and reestablishes proper blood flow is trigger point massage.

Myofascial massage is different. Its purpose is to restore the flexibility of the covering around the muscles, which is called the fascia. When a muscle is inactive for long periods or not properly stretched after an injury heals, collagen can cause the fibers of this covering to become stuck together.

This sticking makes it difficult for each fiber to stretch to its full length. These fibers sticking together can form hard tissue where a supple covering used to be. The fascia can't expand laterally as much either, so muscles can't contract as easily. The muscle does not have as much room as it once did. Both strength and range of motion are lost.

Over time, inactivity leads to more collagen binding the fibers until the fascia feels more like a cord than a muscle. The muscle inside has to work against the hard covering to stretch or contract.

The hips and shoulders are a common place to find this hardened muscle coverings. Myofascial massage focuses on unsticking the strands and this is done by stroking ACROSS the width of the muscle so that the collagen between the fascia fibers is loosened.

Stretching the muscle immediately after the massage should break the collagen bonds further. Regular stretching of the muscle keeps the fibers from resticking.

It seems to me that myofascial problems can contribute to the persistence of trigger points. Both of these conditions inhibit proper alignment and function and reinforce each other. Tackling both problems if you have them is important.

Check this article for a closer look at therapy for the fascia.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Infrared Thermal Imaging of Myofascial Trigger Points

Apparently, trigger points are wamer than ordinary muscle tissue, so it is possible to locate them using thermal imaging.

The way I find them is to feel for a tight muscle then follow it until you find a trigger point. The trigger point is blocking blood flow, so the pressure is high on one side of the trigger point (unless there is more than one point). The high pressure makes the muscle tight; it can't lengthen fully.

Somewhere along that muscle is the trigger point. Pressure on it causes a special kind of pain. You know what thats like if you've ever reached back to massage a tight shoulder.

The chemicals in the trigger point are causing that pain and lack of blood flow. Forcing blood into the point can push those chemicals out, which is exactly what you want.

Stroking the trigger point with pressure a dozen times can get those chemicals out of there and restore normal blood flow. Don't do it too much though; its better to come back in a few hours and work it again than over do it in one sitting.

Once you restore normal blood flow, the muscle tightness will lessen and you can actually stretch it fully. Ahhhh...that feels so good.

Cortisol Also Associated with Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder affects 1 to 2% of the population. Patients alternate between depressive and manic episodes. Many patients can control or reduce their symptoms with drugs, but for a lot of patients, life can be hellish for them and their families. A member of my family has it.

According to this article, "oversecretion of cortisol" is one possible cause of bipolar disorder.

I wonder if the high levels of cortisol produced by muscular trigger points could be causing some cases of bipolar disorder. Stress has been associated with the development of bipolar disorder. In fact, many people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder become bipolar too.

The more I look into the effects of cortisol, the more I am convinced that raising awareness about trigger points is one of the most overlooked opportunities in medicine.

If we get serious about diagnosis and treatment, older people could stay fit and mobile for many more years. That alone would save tens of billions of health care dollars. Never mind the reductions in diabetes, hypertension and mental illness.

Its crazy that we aren't throwing billions at this problem.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

A New Company

I am now working on a business plan for a new company that I am calling Deep Therapeutics. The focus is technology that diagnoses and treats muscular trigger points, something that currently is done by hand.

I've blogged about a lot about trigger points. Resolving trigger points, of which many medical professionals are unaware, frequently requires the attention of a highly skilled practitioners of alternative therapies. You can resolve your trigger points yourself, but it takes a lot of knowledge and persistence. As with most conditions, patients that are proactive and get the right therapy make the fastest progress.

The plan is to create technology that aids the existing approaches, overcomes their shortcomings, lowers costs and speeds resolution. At the same time, these systems will create a consistent treatment experience, track patient progress and counsel patients on how to prevent recurrence.

If this mission excites you, let me know. You can see what's happening with it at