Deactivating trigger points with a self-massage can help to regain normal joint mobility. Particularly two scenarios are conceivable, which can also exist simultaneously
If mobility is restricted due to pain, it can be regained by deactivating trigger points, relieving pain, and thus breaking the protective pattern.
Because without pain you usually move differently than you do with pain.
You try to avoid pain and therefore you move differently, you do not use the full range of motion of your joints, and therefore you overload your muscles.
The latter in turn can activate trigger points – a vicious circle.
Thus, a trigger point self-treatment can potentially help to regain normal mobility.
The self-treatment of trigger points cannot eliminate absolute shortenings of muscles or break up bigger adhesions in the myofascial system (myo = muscle; fascial = connective tissue) – that is my experience.
Here, stretches must be held for a long time (several minutes) and be practiced regularly over a longer period.
However, stretching exercises can temporarily worsen pain. Especially if there are active trigger points which currently cause pain.
Trigger points are a mechanical disruptive factor and stretching exercises would represent an additional mechanical stimulus (stretching of the muscle fibers).
The nervous system, however, wants to avoid further mechanical stress and “defends” itself against the stretch, which is an additional mechanical stimulus, through pain.
The nervous system and the muscle simply do not let go – that is the idea.
However, if you deactivate trigger points by massaging yourself, and thus relieve/eliminate pain, your nervous system is more receptive to stretching exercises, as these are associated with no pain or only mild pain.
Thus, trigger point self-treatments can help to regain limited mobility due to shortenings and adhesions, as they make stretching exercises possible in the first place – at least without aggravating pain.
Trigger points can potentially reduce the effectiveness of stretching exercises, and a trigger point self-treatment can help to get you started with stretching if it is currently too painful.
So, it makes sense to take care of your trigger points first before you start stretching or strengthening muscles or at least at the same time.
I hope this information did help you to understand why strength and stretching exercises can make pain worse, and why relaxation exercises sometimes do not help.