Of Timing Belts and Trigger Points

Many of you know that I’m a big car guy. I am particularly fond of (obsessed with) Toyota Land Cruisers, but I also drive a 1990 Honda Accord. The 4-cylinder engine in my Honda is what they call a “zero-tolerance engine.” This means that when a piston reaches top-dead-center it is actually in the same space that the valve was in when the valve was open. The only thing keeping the piston from hitting the valve is the timing belt. Replacing the timing belt costs $300-400. If the regular maintenance schedule is ignored and the timing belt wears out, the piston will hit the valve and a new engine is necessary. Replacing the engine costs $2000-3000.

So what does that have to do with trigger points? Trigger points have both latent and active phases. Latent trigger points are not painful unless direct pressure is applied to the trigger point. Active trigger points are painful without any pressure at all. After an hour of myotherapy, we hear many of our patients say “I had no idea I was that sore.” What this says to us is, “I had no idea I had so many latent trigger points.” Generally, it is easier to treat latent trigger points than it is to treat active trigger points. The same is true with treating injuries. It is much easier to treat minor injuries in the first 72 hours than it is to treat an injury that is more than two weeks old. There was a study in the peer-reviewed journal Spine (25 (14), 1782-7) which found that nearly 90% of whiplash patients that received early, active treatment were pain-free six months after the injury. Only 15%, however, were pain-free at six months following standard treatment protocols.

With our “zero-tolerance lives,” where we place so many demands on our bodies, it is much more cost-effective to treat trigger points and injuries when they are new. If you consider the number of visits, pain and suffering, and possible time off work, it just makes sense to seek treatment early and regularly to keep our bodies performing at optimal levels.

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