Tandem Point Tandem Point(SM) Therapy:
An integrated acupressure approach for myofascial pain

by Rena K. Margulis
Presented to Rehabilitation Medicine Grand Rounds
Institutes of Health
March 17, 2000

Muscle choice

Trigger points can appear in muscles that are overstrained (too long) or overcontracted (too short). Physical therapy frequently seeks to identify and strengthen overstrained muscles. Tandem Point therapy identifies overcontracted muscles and releases the contractures, thus reducing the pull on, and the pain in, overstrained muscles. Physical therapy and Tandem Point therapy can complement each other and reduce the patient's recovery time. I would strongly encourage those of you who are physical therapists to incorporate these techniques in your work. The first task is to identify the overcontracted muscles. There are many different patterns of overcontracted and overstrained muscles. Here are the two simplest.

Agonist pain: The patient usually knows what she did and will tell you. Based on your understanding of the actions of muscles, you will usually know which muscles she has injured. Essentially, the pain is felt in an overworked agonist. Important exception: A lumbar spine problem can appear to be an agonist problem when it is actually an antagonist problem. The usual approach is to release the agonist muscles first and then release the antagonists. The release of the antagonists should involve a stress of the agonists. Release the agonists again. Example: Patient presents with arm pain and weakness following overuse of the biceps brachii. The approach is to release the trigger points in the biceps brachii, and coracobrachialis, then release the trigger points in the triceps brachii, then release the trigger points in the biceps brachii and coracobrachialis again.

Antagonist pain: Aching muscle pain without an obvious onset. The patient usually does not know what he did, but may be willing to blame bad posture, sleeping poorly, stress, overwork, or not getting enough exercise. Essentially, the pain is felt in an overstrained antagonist to a chronically overcontracted agonist. Determine the muscle that is hurting based on the Travell and Simons patterns, confirm with palpation. Gently massage the muscle to validate the patient's concern, but do not release it. Go immediately to the muscle's antagonists and, where they are found to be contracted, release them. Example: Patient presents with deep, aching pain in the levator scapulae, the second most common pattern seen in my practice. The approach is usually to release any trigger points in the serratus anterior, triceps brachii, and anterior scalene, then briefly release the levator scapulae, then release any trigger points in the levator's antagonists once again (frequently other antagonists of the levator will factor in this pattern).

In an older problem, a patient often has contractures in all the muscles in a functional unit. It is sometimes necessary to go back and forth from agonist to antagonist, releasing trigger points at different levels as the muscles on all sides of the functional unit lengthen and reveal new taut bands. However, I rarely release trigger points in the quadratus lumborum, and virtually never in a stretched position.



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