Triggering relief

Health / "Trigger Point Therapy"

Yoga instructor turns skeptic into believer

By Susan Waughtal

Last year, while searching the yoga section of the bookstore, I bumped into John Smith, my former yoga instructor. He knew by looking at my face and my crooked posture that I was in pain. "I can help you, using trigger point therapy," he said.


Nine months earlier, I had broken both bones in my right ankle during a split-second of klutziness, falling from a ladder. My broken bones, reinforced with metal plates, had healed marvelously, but for months my left leg and hip had done all the work — sitting, standing, hopping — and now everything else was out of whack and I was in unrelenting discomfort, unable to bend and unable to sleep.

Although John is an excellent yoga instructor, I was skeptical. Treatments by a doctor, chiropractor and massage therapist all hadn’t provided any long-term relief, but he persuaded me that trigger point therapy was worth a try.

John discovered trigger point therapy during his search for something to relieve his own shoulder, back and leg pains, acquired during his career as a drywall finisher. "After a chiropractic treatment, I would feel better for a day or two, but the pain would return," he said. "I wanted the tools to help myself."

Eventually, his search led to a book, "The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook — Your Self Treatment Guide to Pain Relief" by Clair Davies. John found the techniques extremely effective.

A trigger point is a small, knotty contraction within a muscle. The constant tension of the muscle fibers causes pain, but often the pain is referred to another connected muscle. Massaging the muscle that hurts doesn’t provide relief because the real source of the pain is the knot, the trigger point. Once a trigger point is found, it can be relaxed by applying firm pressure in short, even strokes.

Since I had been in pain for many months, John thought it would take several weeks of work to feel complete relief. Starting at my head, he demonstrated how to ferret out the knots and iron them smooth.

John showed me how to work out the knots myself with my hands and by using simple tools like tennis balls and wooden massagers. I borrowed John’s book and worked daily on my trigger points, and at the end of my first week’s session, I was relaxed and standing up much straighter.

The third week, I was sitting cross-legged on the floor. I felt so much more flexible; I bent forward to see how far I could reach — and I touched my nose to the floor. I hadn’t even been able to bend three weeks earlier. Now I was walking upright and my pain was nearly gone. I became one of John’s success stories.


A year later, I continue to work on my trigger points regularly to ward off aches and pains, especially after a hard day of gardening or snow-shoveling. As for John Smith, he continues to get satisfaction in surprising skeptics like me and helping people learn how to regain and retain a great quality of life.

Susan Waughtal is an Oronoco freelance writer.




John Smith has been a certified yoga instructor for 6 years, leading classes at the Rochester Area Family Y, Mayo Clinic’s Dan Abraham Healthy Living Center, and other organizations. He has taught stress relief, somatic exercise and meditation classes to Mayo Clinic Staff. For further information, see his Web site:

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