Updated: Jun 17
Trigger Pointing (aka myofascial release) is the foundation of addressing most of our internal physical restrictions (stress). If we do not remove these adhesions (aka, knots or calcium deposits) they further push the body into a stressed state, further depleting the body of vital minerals and blocking the uptake of nutrients and oxygen into our cells and tissues. To learn more in depth about trigger pointing, read our full blog post here.
Understand first, the pain you feel while trigger pointing has been building up for years. All the stressors (physical, chemical, emotional, environmental, and nutritional), have been dehydrating your muscle/fascia, causing it to become like a hard rock. The only way to rehydrate and get new nutrients into it is to apply deep pressure to the bone.
The first step in addressing any issue, whether it is pain, gut issues, neck pain, or inflammation, is to release these dysfunctional codes on your body. Just like a programmer in IT writes code, if the code does not work efficiently, they have to delete it and rewrite a new one. Same thing with our fascia, the pain is essentially a wrong code, we have to delete it (trigger point), then re-write a new code (corrective exercises. We go through more detailed corrective exercises in our Foundational Fitness Program.
We highly encourage you to watch this video here, detailing the common misconceptions of what a standing posture should look like, as well as the difference between a proper standing posture and a dysfunctional posture. We go into detail during this video because most fitness professionals seem to neglect the foundational building block to human health. If we cannot stand properly, we are setting ourselves up for failure later in life. Just like a poor structure to build a house, can end up in collapsing 20, 30, 40 years down the road.
Below we will describe each of the top 5 trigger points, how they influence and contribute to back pain and digestive issues.
1. Quadriceps (Rectus Femoris)
The rectus femoris muscle originates at the inferior superior iliac spine and inserts into the patellar tendon. If this muscle becomes overactive and shortened (most individuals), it will leverage the pelvis into an anterior pelvic tilt when standing, since it cannot leverate the femur into flexion (causing an arched lower back and pain).
This muscle becomes overactive during many exercises such as squats, lunges and any compounding dysfunction associating hip flexion during knee extension (i.e. sitting, driving, etc). Because hip extension has not been used to its full capacity as a result of hip flexor tightness, the quads will often times hold the load of the entire lower body. The rectus femoris being such a large muscle can carry high influence in terms of an unstable pelvis.
There are many layers to the quad muscle so taking at least 5-10 minutes per side is when targeting this area is ideal. The quads can also cause a ton of knee pain in addition to back/neck pain.
The hamstrings primarily originate at the tuberosity of the ischium and insert at the tibia and fibula. The hamstrings are a muscle that is tight amongst most people who drive and sit a lot. When we analyze a seated position, we will see that knee flexion is happening, thus shortening our hamstring. When we then try to stand up, it is more difficult for us to get into a proper posture creating an anterior pelvic shit.
When hip flexor tightness is present from the quads and hamstrings being shortened, it will automatically inhibit the activation of the glute max (the primary muscle in standing). Nick and I can both attest to pulling/injuring our hamstrings and most of the time happened on an acceleration or deceleration in a sprint/run. Addressing the hamstrings will allow your joints to stack more efficiently, allowing you to use your glutes and hamstrings to run and walk, instead of your back and knees.
3. Psoas (lower abs)
The Psoas originates at the transverse processes of T12-L4 and the lateral aspects of the discs between them. It inserts at the lesser trochanter of the femur (quad bone). Essentially weaves from your spine, through your gut regions and into your leg bone.
It joins the upper body and the lower body together from back to front. This muscle gets overactive from sitting and any other stress or injury. Has heavy influence on an anterior pelvic tilt as well as anterior shifting of the hips.
It can impede on the nerves and impact blood flow to the digestive tract and vital organs like the liver, spleen, and kidneys. We know that it connects from the spine into the femur, so it can compress our spine causing many back issues long term if not addressed properly.
4. Upper Abdominals
Due to the pelvis getting anteriorly shifted and tilted from muscles above, the entire thoracic vertebrae will fall forward in compensation in hopes of regaining balance. Over a period of time, this will create a thickening of fascia right below the ribcage, directly upon the upper abdominal region.
Every individual has a tight upper abdominal region that restricts proper diaphragmatic breathing, proper alignment of the gi tract, and of course back pain. In order for the ribs to expand, the diaphragm must have the ability to leverage off of the thoracic spine. When the t-spine is in flexion, the diaphragm is not in position to do so. This shuts off the transverse abdominis, not allowing the body to create intra abdominal pressure and allowing the lumbar spine to be compressed and shifted forward.
5. Glute Medius (upper butt cheek)
The gluteus medius originates on the external surface of the outside of the ilium, aka, your hip bone and traverses downward, narrowing as it goes, to insert on the greater trochanter (large knob bone on the upper thigh bone).
The gluteus medius is a muscle that is overactive due to poor function happening in the gluteus maximus. Lateral band walks, clamshells, and any isolated glute medius exercise will further exacerbate a lower back issue. Since the body is not properly wiring optimal function of the glute max in hip extension, it will then rely upon a backup response, which in this case will be external rotation. When you see someone walking with his/her feet turning outwards, this is an effect of what is happening.
When the femurs are rotated outwardly, it leads the gluteus medius to compensate in extension for the gluteus maximus. Overtime, this can lead to sciatica pain, knee pain, low back pain and more. When releasing the glute medius, we can then re-introduce proper corrective exercises to function our glute max in standing, walking, and running mechanics.
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Nick & Nathan