Regular-article-logo Wednesday, 07 June 2023

What is a trigger point? How do you lose it?

Your health queries answered

Dr Gita Mathai Published 14.12.18, 11:00 AM
Muscles and nerves get tangled up and need to be released

Muscles and nerves get tangled up and need to be released Image: iStock

I developed pain on the outer side of my thigh. I ran my hand along the leg and found that there was a very tender lump. There is agonising pain whenever I touch it.

This is probably a “trigger point” — an area where the muscles and nerves have tangled up. It needs to be released. You can do this yourself by massaging it with your thumb. You can also apply ice for 10 minutes, rubbing it in a circular motion. You can use a foam roller to massage out the pain.


You can go to a physical therapist who will use a non-invasive device like an ultrasound to remove the trigger. Triggers tend to reform. Stretch the muscles regularly to prevent this.

Diet woes

I am overweight and feel guilty about it. I diet and exercise. I do manage to lose some weight, only to regain it all and then some more.

When you diet and starve your body of calories, the brain signals that you are hungry. Immediately, you crave simple carbohydrate snacks, sweets and chocolates. The blood sugar level spikes and you feel satiated. Unfortunately the tendency is to do this repeatedly at ever shorter intervals. That contributes to the weight gain.

You could eat a fruit, a carrot or a raw tomato if you are hungry and steer clear of the carbohydrates. That way your hunger pangs may be temporarily satisfied.

How much exercise?

I am 60 years old and I retired a few months ago. I walk 30 minutes a day. Is that enough?

It is good that you are walking. Try to reach your target heart rate. This is calculated as 80 per cent of 220 minus age. Muscles tend to waste as you grow older, so you also need to do weight training at least three times a week using light weights (2-kilo dumbbells). Stretches and yoga prevent stiffness brought on by increasing age. If you do all this, your balance will remain good, muscle and bones will be healthy and falls will be prevented.

Stubborn baby

My one-month-old baby refuses to feed at my wife’s breast. Should we start bottle feeds?

Babies have a rooting reflex. If you touch the side of the cheek with the nipple or the tip of your finger, the baby turns its head and “latches on”. If you try to force the nipple into the mouth, the baby will reject it.

Avoid beans

I feel bloated, my stomach hurts, and I pass embarrassing amounts of gas.

This may be due to your diet. You may be able to reduce it if you eat fewer beans and carbohydrates. Also, avoid aerated beverages. Drink plenty of plain water, at least three litres a day. Eat at least 2-3 fruits per day and cultivate regular bowel habits.

Morning sickness

My daughter is pregnant, and she vomits eight to 10 times a day. It is tough to watch.

Vomiting during pregnancy may occur because of a urinary tract infection or for no reason. The obstetrician will be able to sort this out. There are a few simple manoeuvres to help. She could walk for a half hour morning and evening in the fresh air on level ground. She could leave the kitchen area when food is being fried. She could have acupressure performed on her wrists for 20 minutes every morning and evening. She could also give up food and eat only vanilla ice cream for a day. For some mysterious reason, it helps some women end vomiting. If all this fails then tablets may be required.

The writer is a paediatrician with a family practice at Vellore and author of Staying Healthy in Modern India. If you have any questions on health issues please write to

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