Thera Cane Techniques

This text is a simplified excerpt from a much more detailed tutorial, Save Yourself from Trigger Points & Myofascial Pain Syndrome!

Muscle knots or "trigger points" are small patches of super-contracted muscle fibres that affect performance of the whole muscle, spread pain to adjacent areas, and cause other trigger points. Once you know what a trigger point feels like and can find them yourself, the door is wide open to start self-massaging them.

You can often get even more relief from self-massage than you can get by paying a massage therapist to help you.

Dr. Janet Travell wrote that "almost any [physical] intervention" can relieve a trigger point. And self-massage is usually the simplest, cheapest, and most effective intervention. How can so little be so effective? How can such a minor treatment work?

The vicious cycle taking place inside a lesser trigger point is not especially difficult to disrupt. The knot may not be all that tightly contracted in the first place. The accumulation of metabolic wastes is relatively small compared to a severe trigger point, and fairly easy to "squish" out with gentle pressure. The neurological dysfunction is not usually particularly entrenched, and fairly likely to change in response to minor stimuli. Adhesions are not a factor in trigger points that haven't been around for long. And isolated trigger points are much easier to manage than the large groups of trigger points that are typical of full-blown myofascial pain

How do you know it's working? The goal of self-massage for trigger points is to achieve a "release." What is trigger point "release" and what does it feel like? How do you measure success?

Trigger point release, of course, is relaxation of the tightly contracted sarcomeres that the trigger point is made of, and the breaking of the vicious cycle that has been keeping them seized up.

Unfortunately, this happy change in state may not be obvious, even when it occurs! The problem is that the tissue remains generally polluted with waste metabolites even after a successful release. Release may actually involve or even require damage to the tissue of the muscle knots. This means that it will probably still be sensitive to pressure, even if you’ve succeeded.

For beginners, the way to cope with this problem is to just not worry about it! Simply trust that you probably achieved a release, or a partial release, and then wait for the tissue to recover. Over the next several hours, if you were successful, you will notice a distinct reduction in symptoms — mission accomplished.

Generally speaking, with easy trigger points, successful release is associated with "good pain" - that clear, strong and satisfying sensation that is somehow both painful and yet also relieving. 

its not exactly pleasant, and yet your body "knows" that it needs and wants the pressure. Usually, if you feel "good pain," a trigger point release is likely.

On the other hand, if you are wincing or gritting your teeth, you probably need to be more gentle. Relaxation is an important component of successful treatment. If you can't massage the trigger point without wincing, either you're being too brutal on yourself, or the trigger point is simply too severe. Sometimes a trigger point will feel nasty and hot and burning and still release anyway. But often such a rotten trigger point will need more advanced treatment.

This edited text reprinted here with thanks to Paul Ingraham

To view the full Thera Cane instruction booklet, visit the manufacturer’s website where you can download versions in English, Spanish, Italian, French, German and Japanese