Reduce hand pain by releasing your trigger points – PlanetJune by June Gilbank: Blog (2022)

Hand and wrist pain is a common story for crocheters, knitters, and other crafters who spend a lot of time making repetitive motions with their hands.

If you visit the doctor, you may be told you have carpal tunnel syndrome, tendinitis, arthritis, an RSI (repetitive strain injury), and that may be the case… or it may not.

Before you consider serious medical treatments like steroid injections or surgery to help with your hand pain, I’d suggest you read my story below, and see if you can fix yourself without the need for drugs or surgical interventions.

Disclaimer: I’m not a medical professional, and if your doctor has diagnosed you with a condition, their recommended treatment may be the right solution for you. But I’d recommend you try this simple self-administered pressure treatment first – it can’t make things any worse, it’s fast and free, and it may relieve you of serious pain!

My Story

In 2007, I was mis-diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome.

The pain was debilitating. I could no longer perform everyday tasks without agonizing pain: turning a door handle; pushing open a door with my palm; using a computer mouse; operating a can opener…

I was referred to a specialist, given a fancy wrist brace to lock my wrist straight, and told that if that didn’t fix the problem, my only other options were steroid injections or carpal tunnel surgery.

I wore the wrist brace for months, and learned to mouse left-handed. The brace helped with the pain, but the problem didn’t go away.

Eventually, I found a cure that was ridiculously simple, I could perform on myself at no cost, and has completely fixed the problem.

None of the doctors I visited considered this as a possibility.

The cause of all my debilitating wrist pain was a knotted muscle near my elbow.

Myofascial Pain Syndrome, Trigger Points & Referred Pain

When you overuse a muscle, it can cause sensitive areas of tight fibres to form, creating a knot in the muscle. The point where the knot forms is called a trigger point, and pressing on it causes an achy pain.

Now, here’s the crazy part: the muscle knot at the trigger point can cause serious pain in a different part of your body. This is called referred pain.

So the pain you feel may be caused by a trigger point elsewhere. No matter how much you treat your hand or wrist, you won’t be able to fix the problem if the pain, like mine, is caused by a trigger point in your upper forearm!

Treat Yourself

Once you know where the trigger point is that’s causing your pain, you can ‘unlock’ it – and stop the referred pain – by releasing the muscle knot yourself.

I learnt this ischemic pressure technique by watching a video from Dr Jonathan Kuttner, an expert in chronic muscle and joint pain. He has a couple of quick videos that explain the process – I highly recommend you watch them:

The process is the same to ‘turn off’ any trigger point. The key is to start with low enough pressure on the trigger point so it doesn’t hurt, then to gradually increase the pressure, but never to the level where it hurts.

(From experience, I can tell you that, if you’re too forceful, you’ll end up feeling like you’ve bruised yourself, and you don’t do any good. Slow and gentle is the way to go.)

My Treatment

Coincidentally, the trigger point Jonathan demonstrates ‘turning off’ in his video is the same one that caused my carpal tunnel-like symptoms and wrist/hand pain, so I could follow the instructions in his video exactly.

I’ve never been able to feel the nodule of knotted muscle he describes, but I know I’m in the right place when I feel the tender spot on my arm.

Reduce hand pain by releasing your trigger points – PlanetJune by June Gilbank: Blog (1)

In 2009, when my condition was agonising, I could press the trigger point in my arm and immediately feel the referred pain in the back of my hand and wrist! That’s what convinced me that this was a) a real phenomenon and b) the cause of my problems.

Here’s me from an email I sent in 2009 when I’d just cured myself of my supposed ‘carpal tunnel syndrome’:

The myofascial thing is amazing – my wrist was so painful I couldn’t put any pressure on it while it was at all bent, so I couldn’t even open a door or a jar without it being agonisingly painful. I got one of those wrist splint things and it helped me to avoid the pain but it didn’t get better. And then I was googling and found this AMAZING thing – basically it was a referred pain caused by a muscle knot just below my elbow. And by doing gentle acupressure [sic] with my finger on this point, I healed it! I know it sounds like rubbish, but it’s totally true – when I pushed this exact spot on my arm, I could feel the pain in my wrist, even though I wasn’t doing anything to my wrist. Total magic.

Since then, I’ve rarely had the pain escalate to the terrible point it was at. I always treat it as soon as I realise what’s happening, and the knot has never had a chance to form as badly as it was back then.

I’ve developed the same problem in the other arm too, and now I can always find the trigger point on each arm – I feel a tender ache when I press on them. I try to do the ischemic pressure treatment whenever I remember, to stop the knot from forming in the first place. This works really well for me!

Finding Other Trigger Points

There are trigger points all over the body, and you can consult a trigger point diagram (like this one) that shows the position of the trigger point (marked with an X) and the possible locations of referred pain for that point (shown as a cloud of red). You can use those to help diagnose if any of your unexplained chronic pains may be caused by trigger points, and try to deactivate them if so.

I’ve had several other problems with pain that have also turned out to be trigger point related:

  • I get pain at the base of my thumbs when I crochet (or use my phone) too much, and I’ve discovered that there are two trigger points in the thumb. Treating the lower trigger point at the base of the thumb seems to help me.
  • I also occasionally get terrible upper back pain. When I have it, I can never get comfortable and I can’t sleep for the pain. The back pain turned out to be caused by trigger points, and now when my upper back and shoulders are hurting, I can usually fix it by unlocking the trigger points in my levator scapulae or trapezius muscles. (Here’s Jonathan’s article Trigger Points for Neck Pain).

Give It a Go

I have no idea how many people with hand pains from crochet or other crafts may also actually be suffering from a simple trigger point caused by a knotted muscle in their forearm, but please do try some trigger point pressure therapy and report back here if it helps!

A couple of tips on what to expect:

  • If your pain is bad, I’ve found that it may take daily sessions over a week or two to completely turn off the trigger point, but you should be able to feel an improvement immediately.
  • Your trigger points will probably reactivate in time, but knowing where they are and how to treat them means you can fix yourself in future before the stage of agonising pain, limited function and sleepless nights.

I hope this works for you as well as it has for me.

Here’s to more crafting, with less pain! 🙂

FAQs

How do you release trigger points in hand? ›

How to Release Trigger Points - YouTube

What happens when trigger points are released? ›

When the trigger point is released, your muscles will relax allowing fresh blood flow, sending nutrients into the cells and bring it back to healthy state. You should notice more range of motion in that muscle without pain.

How do you release hand pain? ›

Managing symptoms
  1. Avoid tasks that make the pain worse. Try to avoid tasks that are causing the pain or making it worse. ...
  2. Drugs to reduce pain. These include painkillers such as paracetamol and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like ibuprofen. ...
  3. Ice and heat. ...
  4. Wearing splints. ...
  5. Keeping your hands and wrists moving.

Can I release my own trigger points? ›

Trigger points can be released by a practitioner through manual pressure or with dry needling. You can also release them yourself with a ball or other tool.

What does trigger point release feel like? ›

Trigger points feel like little marbles or knots just under your skin. When pressing on trigger points, many people feel no pain or discomfort. Sometimes, trigger points become very sensitive, and some people feel significant pain in areas where they have trigger points. Have you ever had a Charlie horse in a muscle?

What does it feel like when a muscle knot releases? ›

They often show up in your gluteal muscles, too. Muscles knots can cause aching sensations and pain in your muscles and joints. When you touch a muscle knot, it may feel swollen, tense, or bumpy. It could also feel tight and contracted, even when you're trying to relax, and they're often sensitive to the touch.

How long does it take for a trigger point to release? ›

With trigger points of recent onset, significant relief of symptoms often comes in just minutes, and most acute problems can be eliminated within 2 to 10 days. Chronic conditions are more complex and often less responsive to treatment. None the less, even some of these problems can be cleared in as little as 6 weeks.

How often should you release trigger points? ›

Use your fingers (or tools like foam rollers and massage balls) to press firmly into the trigger points. Repeat for three to five minutes, ideally as often as five or six times per day. “It needs to be part of the daily routine,” Dr. Adams says.

What is inside a trigger point? ›

A Trigger Point (TrP) is a hyperirritable spot, a palpable nodule in the taut bands of the skeletal muscles' fascia. Direct compression or muscle contraction can elicit jump sign, local tenderness, local twitch response and referred pain which usually responds with a pain pattern distant from the spot.

How can I reduce inflammation in my hands? ›

Use a warm, moist compress (or towel or heating pad) on your fingers and hands for 15 minutes before you exercise. To reduce swelling, use ice packs. Put an ice pack on the painful joint for 10 to 15 minutes at a time.

What are the signs of nerve damage in your hands? ›

Symptoms of Nerve Injuries of the Hand, Wrist and Elbow
  • Loss of sensation in the upper arm, forearm, and/or hand. ...
  • Loss of function in the upper arm, forearm, and/or hand. ...
  • Wrist drop or inability to extend the wrist.
  • Decreased muscle tone in the upper arm, forearm, and/or hand.

How do you pop the center of your hand? ›

How to Crack Your Wrists by Yourself - YouTube

What happens when a muscle knot releases? ›

When a muscle is tight like that, it can limit blood flow in that area. The theory is when you put pressure on it you're limiting blood flow to the knot, and when you release the pressure, more blood flows in,” he explains. The increased blood flow can help the muscle relax.

Can a heating pad help trigger points? ›

After 48 hours, apply heat (warm shower or warm bath) for 15 to 20 minutes several times a day, or alternate ice and heat. Massage the trigger point and stretch out the muscle. Trigger point massage can be done by applying heat to the area to warm and prepare the muscle.

How long does it take to massage a knot out? ›

How long does it take to massage a knot out? Releasing a muscle knot can take time, so don't try to rush the process. When administering self-massage techniques, focus on the affected area for 3 to 5 minutes at a time and repeat the massage 5 or 6 times daily or until it is resolved.

How do you pop a pressure point? ›

Self-Defense Pressure Points - YouTube

What causes trigger points? ›

Most points occur because of muscle overuse, muscle trauma (injury), or psychological stress. Trigger points often arise from sustained repetitive activities, like lifting heavy objects at work or working on a computer all day. No single factor is responsible for the development of myofascial trigger points.

How do you stop pressure points from hurting? ›

5 Pressure Points for Pain Relief - Ask Doctor Jo - YouTube

How do you perform a trigger point therapy? ›

Techniques
  1. Run your hands over the area where you're feeling pain: Is there one specific point that hurts? ...
  2. You can either use a tennis ball as your personal trigger point massage ball or simply use your fingers. ...
  3. Keep going until things start to feel a bit looser and more comfortable, but don't overdo it.
Jun 8, 2021

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