You were probably taught to share at some point in your life. You may have heard phrases like, "Many hands make light work." Our muscles share, too. They often work together in teams. There might be several muscles from different areas of the body, working together to perform one function. When they all work together, the job is not too hard for any one muscle. But when one muscle stops doing its part for some reason, the other muscles take up the slack. If it is a temporary situation, these other muscles might recover quickly once the emergency is over; however, if it is a long-term situation, the other muscles may also become disabled.
Understanding which muscles perform which functions, gives us helpful information when treating our trigger points. It is a good idea to check the other muscles in a group to see what shape they are in. Muscles that work together often get trigger points together.
Have you ever used window blinds that use two cords to open and close the slats? One string pulls the slats closed one way; the other cord pulls them closed the other way. Many places in our body work on the same principle. For example, in our forearms we have the flexor muscles on the under side, which "pull" our hands and fingers down, and the extensor muscles on the top side, which "pull" our hands and fingers up. With window blinds, sometimes it is necessary to put tension on both cords to set the slats to the proper angle.
The same thing occurs with the extensor and flexor muscles of the forearm. Both sets of muscles are required for many tasks. For example, gripping requires both sets of muscles. Computer work calls on both the flexors and extensors. Many of us (including me) spend long periods of time at the computer, overworking not only our arms, but our shoulder and neck muscles, too.
The relationship between other muscles may not be as obvious. When we have back trouble, it may not occur to us to check our stomach or buttocks muscles for trigger points, but when you understand that stomach muscles work with back muscles to lift us up and carry us around, and that the buttocks muscles help us maintain our balance, it makes perfect sense to check them as well.
Sometimes, a whole set of muscles becomes disabled and we use another set of muscles to accomplish the task that the disabled muscles used to do. Often, these other muscles are not able to handle the extra job, and they, too, become disabled. This can set up a scenario of one problem after another.
A few years ago, I discovered that I could use a grabber tool to pick things up off the floor without having to bend down. At that time, my back was so disabled that I had maybe one or two bends a day before I simply could not do any more. I could not sit on the floor to pick things up because it would make my back worse. I purchased my grabber tool and I went to town. I picked up everything. I got fast at it. I was so happy that I had found a way around my disability. However, it was not long until I started to have problems with my shoulders, arms, and hands. I could hardly do anything with my hands. I distinctly remember one time trying to cut out biscuits with a biscuit cutter and being in so much pain that I took a break after each biscuit. It was excruciating. I had overworked my hands, using the grabber tool to compensate for my disabled back, and in the process, I disabled another large portion of my body.
I can now bend over and pick things up again, and I save the grabber tool for getting things in hard to reach places and for picking up garbage out in the yard. I work my trigger points before and after bending activities. I work muscles in my back, gluts, legs and stomach, since they all participate in the bending. As for my shoulders, arms, and hands, I am still working on recovering them.
So, it is a good idea to know which muscles share tasks together. The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook describes the function of muscles, and has them grouped together in a logical way. The trigger point map has some drawings that help to understand the placement of muscles. You can also analyze your own movements. Place your fingers on your forearm, for example, while you flex up and down. You will get an idea of which muscles are doing what.
Knowing more about your muscles will help you to treat your pain more effectively.