Abnormal sensations in the hands or feet occur most often when their sensory nerves are being squeezed, pinched, impinged, entrapped, or compressed by some means. Nerve compression is frequently caused by myofascial trigger points (tiny contraction knots) in overworked or traumatized muscles.
This is the view expressed by Doctors Janet Travell and David Simons in their widely acclaimed medical textbook, Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: The Trigger Point Manual. Their rationale is that trigger points keep muscles shortened and tight, which can cause pressure on any nerve that passes through or near them. The scalene muscles in the neck are shown here with the areas affected by their trigger points:
Trigger points can also cause a muscle to impede the blood flow in a vein, which in turn can cause swelling in your wrists and hands, or ankles and feet. When the hands are affected, the combined effects of these neurological and vascular compressions can cause you to unexpectedly drop things. This can result in a mistaken diagnosis of carpal tunnel syndrome.
Trigger points that cause numbness, tingling, or burning in the hands and fingers can be found in twelve muscles of the chest, anterior neck, upper arm, or forearm. Similar sensations in the foot can be traced to muscles of the buttocks, lower leg, and the foot itself.
The flexor hallucis longus shown here is one of nine muscles whose trigger points can cause numbness in the foot and toes (in this case the underside of the big toe). This trigger point also causes pain in the same area of the toe.
When physicians are uninformed about trigger points, numbness in the hands or feet is likely to be wrongly labeled peripheral neuropathy or carpal tunnel syndrome (called “tarsal tunnel syndrome” when it occurs in the foot).
Even when nerve damage is real, such as sometimes happens with diabetes, myofascial trigger points may still add significantly to the individual’s discomfort.
Trigger Point Therapy
Trigger points should be at the top of the list during any examination for pain, numbness and other abnormal sensations in the hands or feet. When healthcare practitioners have had adequate training and experience, trigger points are easy to locate and treat. In fact, there are ways to treat them yourself quite effectively.
In The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook, nationally certified massage therapist Clair Davies simplifies Travell and Simons’s extensive research into myofascial pain and makes it accessible to the layman.
When trigger points are the cause of numbness, tingling, swelling or burning pain in your hands or feet, you can gain significant relief using safe, precise methods of self-applied trigger point massage.
To find out more about the book and the method, please visit the homepage. To read a growing number of reviews by people who have been helped by the book, take a look at the book’s page at Amazon.com.