You know you need trigger point therapy - but how do you find the therapist who's right for you?
Trigger points are taut bands that form within muscles and cause the muscles to become shorter, weaker, and less efficient. Essentially trigger points are what your grandmother referred to as “knots” within the muscles.
Trigger points develop for a number of reasons including overuse or trauma from injuries. When left untreated they may cause you to overcompensate and put additional strain on other healthy muscles which can lead to more severe musculoskeletal disorders.
According to leading medical experts such as Dr Bob Gerwin (John Hopkins Hospital School of Pain Medicine) trigger points may be associated with up to 95% of musculoskeletal pain disorders. Treating trigger points through a combination of applied pressure (manual therapy) and specific stretching and strengthening exercises is often a straightforward process and can be extremely effective for providing pain relief and helping to accelerate recovery.
Trigger point therapy is practiced by (probably) the majority of manual therapists. In elite sports and athletics trigger points have become a standard part of treatment routines. Many of these treatment routines are autonomously reproducible meaning that the same treatment protocols will work on every patient with the same injury, irrespective of age or gender. This makes trigger point therapy simple to learn for trained manual therapists from all professions, as well as being easily adapted for self-help.
So where do you go for trigger point therapy?
As stated above, trigger point therapy is practiced by tens of thousands of manual therapists. Whilst there are some specialist Myofascial Trigger Point Therapists, there aren’t too many, and you probably don’t need to find one. What you do need is a qualified manual therapist who practices trigger point therapy. These include massage therapists, physical therapists, chiropractors, athletic trainers .... in fact therapists from just about every discipline. And chances are that there’s one near you!
Most of these therapists will have studied trigger point therapy either as part of their main qualification, or by taking additional courses to supplement their main degree or professional qualification.
What are NAT certified therapists?
NAT is the most common form of trigger point certification in the United States, United Kingdom, and is increasingly popular with manual therapists in more than 20 countries. NAT certified therapists include all types of manual therapists who have chosen to practice trigger point therapy.
There are many levels and types of NAT certification that cover trigger point therapy techniques for most common musculoskeletal disorders. When looking for a therapist to treat your condition, don’t be shy to ask exactly what type of certification a therapist has completed, and to ask about relevant experience.
Whilst most therapists who practice trigger point therapy may be proficient to treat most, or a wide range of musculoskeletal disorders, some will specialize (or have more experience) in treating specific conditions. Always take the time to “interview” a therapist to find out more about their qualifications, and experience, to find the therapist who is right for you.
What about exercise professionals?
There are many qualified exercise professionals who may be able to help you with your trigger points. These professionals are not the same as manual therapists and will not typically be qualified to treat you with “hands-on” therapy. However they may be certified to help you build strengthening and stretching programs specifically designed to address your trigger point issues. In some cases they may also be able to advise you generally on self-help techniques.
There are a growing number of exercise professionals who have certified in trigger point techniques, and who will often work closely with manual therapists to help provide comprehensive treatment to clients who are receiving trigger point therapy. These increasingly include Yoga instructors, Pilates instructors, Fitness instructors, and Personal Trainers.
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