by Paul Ingraham, Vancouver, Canada BIO
Trigger points (TrPs), or muscle knots, are the world’s most common cause of aches and pains, and yet they are rarely diagnosed correctly. Having too many stubborn trigger points is called “myofascial pain syndrome” (MPS). The Perfect Spots series of articles highlights trigger points that are unusually common and yet relatively easy to treat yourself — the most satisfying and therapeutically significant places to apply pressure on the human body. For a complete, advanced tutorial that walks you through every possible self-treatment option for muscle pain, see Save Yourself from Trigger Points & Myofascial Pain Syndrome!
Pain LocationRelated ConditionsRelated Musclesanywhere in the low back, tailbone, lower buttock, abdomen, groin, side of the hiplow back pain, herniated discquadratus lumborum, erector spinae“Big Red Books” Reference: Volume 2, Chapter 4 see chart of all spots below
People usually don’t know about this spot … until it gets massaged! And then it’s like scratching an itch they didn’t even know they had. People say to me, “How could I have not known that was there?” Even when they have low back pain, most people are probably unaware that this spot is the source of so much of it — it often seems too high. But trigger points in this location tend to refer pain downwards, fooling us into thinking our low back pain is lower than it is.
This perfect spot lives in the “thoracolumbar corner,” a nook between your lowest rib and your spine — right where the stability of the rib cage gives way to the relative instability of the lumbar spine. Muscle tends to bunch up around this joint between the last of the thoracic vertebrae and the first of the lumbar. The sweet spot consists of trigger points in the upper-central corner of the quadratus (square) lumborum muscle and in the thick column of muscle that braces the spine.
Technically, they are quite different muscles. Practically, trigger points in both will feel like the same spot — Perfect Spot No. 2.
Important NoteThis article is best for people with a minor low back pain problem. If you are having more serious or chronic back pain, please start with:
Save Yourself from Low Back Pain!
The quadratus lumborum — “QL” for short — is an interesting flat sheet of a muscle, spanning the space between the ribs and the hips. The QL has three major jobs, which is why it often needs work: it acts as a prime mover, a postural muscle, and a respiratory muscle. Some people with back pain also experience significant discomfort when breathing, because a cranky QL resists elevation of the rib cage, and cramps up when pulling it down firmly on exhalation. You can imagine the sense of relief people experience when this is resolved!
The column of paraspinal muscle is not one muscle, but an impressive collection of muscle woven together almost like a thick rope. There is hardly a location anywhere in this muscle group from skull to sacrum that does not have the potential to be someone’s perfect spot … but there is almost always a significant trigger point in the thoracolumbar corner.