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Muscle Knots Cause Referred Pain

Two physicians, Drs. Travell and Simon, completed extensive research based on muscle spasms that they termed trigger points (muscle knots).

It has been proven over and over, using criteria the medical world likes to see (double–blind studies, etc.), that trigger points in one place can cause one to feel the sensation of pain, numbness, and/or tingling in areas that are far from the actual cause of pain.

Doctors have discovered that as a nerve becomes impinged, damaged, or severed in one place, a person can feel the pain or numbness at the point where the nerve would normally end.  This is called the Gate Theory and it is the basis for understanding trigger points, also known as muscle knots.

The brain forms the spinal cord which is a very large grouping of nerves that go out through the vertebrae of the spine and go to every point in our body, including our organs.  By the way, muscles and skin are both organs.

Sensations all begin in the brain and travel to our outer most points via the spinal cord and on the amazing pathway of nerves.

Even when we step on a tack, the message is sent to the brain, the pain is then registered by the brain and at that point the brain sends a message to our foot to lift off the point of the tack.  Needless to say, the speed of this message is amazing!

Let’s look at how referred pain to your fingers could be coming from your neck:

Referred pain is easy for me to explain by looking at what happens when scalene muscles put pressure on the bundle of nerves in your neck called the brachial plexus.

As the scalene muscles contract putting pressure on the brachial plexus this can cause numbness in your thumb and first two fingers (median nerve), your ring and pinky fingers (ulnar nerve) and/or your wrist (radial nerve).

If you are feeling these symptoms you may think you have carpal tunnel syndrome but often just releasing the tight muscles off the nerves will stop the pain and numbness/tingling.

The referred pain causing numbness in your foot could be coming from your pelvic:

At the very base of your spine, your spinal cord splits in half so it can pass through a notch in your pelvis and travel down the back of your leg to your foot.

When your spinal cord splits it becomes the sciatic nerve and femoral nerve and then it splits again as it goes down to your foot.  As a result, when your pelvis is rotated (usually from tight muscles caused by muscle knots) and pressing on the sciatic nerve, you may feel pain or numbness in your foot!  This is the Gate Theory and referred pain in action.


The two main structures that put pressure on nerves are either the bones or the muscles.

The problem is, if a muscle is pulling on the bone and the bone is now pressing on the nerve simply putting the bone back where it belongs won′t help!  Why?  Because the tight muscle will just pull the bone right back out again.

You need to first release the tension in the muscle (the muscle knot), and then frequently the bone will automatically go back into its proper place.  If the bone doesn′t return to its place, a chiropractor will be able to move it, but the muscle must be released first.

It has been proven repeatedly that trigger points in a muscle are often the cause of nerve impingement so it is vital to release the tension first.

This basic understanding of referred pain is important as you begin to discover why releasing muscle knots is a key factor in any joint pain you may be experiencing and for when I give the Julstro techniques to release the muscles that are causing pain that otherwise wouldn′t seem logical without this understanding.

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