Monday 10th October, 2022

The easy way to release trigger points in your low back

Massaging buttocks with foam roller
There is a much easier, safer, and more effective way to release your trigger points

Trigger points in your low back and buttock muscles can cause a great deal of pain and disability, and can even shoot pain down your leg mimicking sciatica. It’s great to be able to treat these yourself, but the way you usually get shown is painful, hard to do, and if you’ve had any experience with those techniques before you’ll know that the problem practically always come back again. In this article we’ll show you a much simpler way to treat or release your back muscle trigger points that’s pain free and highly effective.

The way we’ll do this is:

  1. show you the technique,
  2. show how to apply it to your low back muscles, then
  3. give you some hints and advice to help you get the best possible results.

Trigger point therapy vs trigger point release

Trigger point therapy and trigger point release are practically the same thing so the terms get used interchangeably. The official name for these trigger points is myofascial trigger points.

Treating your low back pain

Although trigger points are an important cause of back pain and treating them should be part of most back pain care there are other important issues. Because of that please consider this as for general information and seek advice from a professional who can properly examine and assess you. Please see this article for further information on causes of back pain.

The basic technique to release your trigger points

  • Introduction
  • How to find your trigger points
  • How to do the technique


The way you will usually get shown to treat trigger points is by applying pressure and waiting for the pain to fade and the muscle to relax. In the low back this is often done using a tool such as a cane, ball or roller. It is painful, involves getting into difficult positions, and you can easily hurt yourself doing them. It is far easier, safer and more effective to release trigger points in your low back using a vibration massager. Instead of pressing in, the head of a vibration massager is placed over the trigger point, allowing the vibrations to penetrate. There are huge advantages in using the vibrations to penetrate rather than the typical way of pressing in with your thumb, a ball or a roller. Lets look at these.

Vibration trigger point therapy
Vibrations are scientifically proven to do all the main things needed to treat a trigger point

Highly effective

As discussed in our article What is the best trigger point therapy the vibrations are scientifically proven to do all the main things needed to treat a trigger point,

Vibration massage used on intrinsic muscles of the spine

Better penetration

The vibrations are able to easily penetrate deeply to even the deep, hard to get at trigger points. As shown in this diagram a lot of the very important muscles of the spine sit deep around the spine protected by bony levers. Pressure trigger point releases cannot get to these muscles, while vibrations do easily.

No pain and little risk

Because you are not physically pressing in there’s also usually no pain, no risk of causing damage, and no risk of pressing on something sensitive like a nerve or a blood vessel.

Extremely easy

Best of all you don’t need any special skills to do vibration massage. You just sit the machine on and let it do the work. You don’t even need to find the spot exactly. As long as it’s somewhere under the head of the machine the vibrations will find it for you.

How to find your trigger points

The examination technique

Start with a general examination

Start by using the flats of your fingers using moderate pressure to examine your calf muscles looking for areas of general tenderness or tightness. Work systematically to cover all of the muscles.

Deeper examination

When you find an area of tightness or tenderness use the tips of one or two fingers to examine your muscle more deeply looking for tight bands of muscle with a tender lump that shoots pain when you press on it. Those tender lumps will be the trigger points, and the pain caused when pressing on them will likely match the pain shown in the pics in the section on individual muscles.

The even easier alternative

The vibrations spread out from the massager head so everything below the head is “soaked” with therapeutic vibrations. All you need to do is place the head over the area. If you use our Ultimate Quad Head Massager it has four powerful vibration heads that can treat multiple trigger points over a larger area.

Quadratus Lumborum muscle with trigger points
Quadratus Lumborum muscle with (myofascial) trigger points

So how do you know where to look?

You may like to check all of your lower back muscles, which is not that hard to do, or alternatively when we go over the individual muscles we’ll list the possible symptoms and have charts like this showing the common trigger points. That can help narrow things down a bit. The other good way is when you see a professional have him or her show you where all the important trigger points are.

How to apply the therapy

Using the quad head massager
To treat trigger points basically all you need to do is sit the machine on and let the vibrations penetrate for 30-60 seconds

We have a few simple hints and precautions in our article on how to use a massager, but basically once you’ve found the spot all you do then is sit the head of the machine on for about 30-60 seconds and let the vibrations penetrate, then when you’ve finished check to see if it maybe needs a bit more. All we do is systematically examine the muscles, and apply the therapy to everything we find.

Some basic pointers

  1. You will notice that we work through a single layer of clothing. This prevents skin irritation.
  2. There is no need to press in or move the machine around like you would do with conventional massager. This would actually be counter productive.
  3. If you use a vibration massager with a proper ergonomically designed handle (rather than a massage gun) you should easily be able to reach and apply therapy anywhere on your body.

How to apply trigger point therapy to your low back and "backside" muscles

The best way to show you these techniques is by using a video. Here we will show you where the muscles are and the common trigger points, the common symptoms, and how to apply the trigger point therapy.

Video contents

  • The basic technique
  • applying the technique to individual muscles
  • hints for better results

List of muscles:

  1. The paraspinal muscles
  2. Quadratus Lumborum
  3. Iliopsoas
  4. Gluteal muscles
  5. The small muscles of the spine

some hints and advice to help you get the best possible results

So, that’s the simple way of treating release trigger points in your low back. I think you’ll agree that it’s a lot easier and nicer than using painful pressure or getting into some awkward position with a ball or roller. What I’d like to do now is quickly go over a few things help you stay safe and get the best possible results. Keep in mind though that I can only give specific advice to my own patients, so consider this as general information only.

Do you want great long term results, or just temporary relief?

The next thing we’ll go over is whether you want great long term results, or just a bit of temporary relief. I mentioned before that if you use a pressure technique the problem will almost always come back. It’s the same if you get needles or laser. The main issue is that trigger point therapies and releases initially just quieten the trigger points down a bit so they’re not hurting, which means they’re still there and eventually start hurting again. To get rid of trigger points completely scientific trials show that after the pain goes you need to keep treating them, maybe even be 50 or 100 times. We discuss this in detail in our artice Why do trigger points keep coming back

Trigger point dry needling
After the pain goes will you make another 50-100 appointments for needling to get rid of the trigger points completely?

If you’re using a professional with needles or lasers, once the pain has gone I doubt you’re going to make another 50 or 100 more appointments. I also strongly doubt you’ll be very excited about another 50-100 sessions of self inflicted pressure techniques either. The practicality is that there’s virtually no chance that needles, lasers or pressure techniques will ever get rid of your problem.

That’s the biggest advantage of using a vibration massager. Once the pain has gone you can easily keep doing it every day every day till the trigger points are gone, then maybe then once once a week or once a month to stop them coming back.

Avoid percussion massagers (massage guns) and their techniques

The next thing you need to do is to avoid percussion massagers or massage guns, and the techniques their advocates show you. I’ll share with you why. What percussion massagers or massage gun makers have done is modify vibration massagers to make a marketing gimmick that’s a lot less effective and a lot more dangerous. The easiest way to explain it is to use the analogy of a construction compactor vs a jackhammer.

Percussion vs vibration massage

The problem with the equipment

Vibration massagers are like these construction compactors. They send large amounts of vibrations deep into the ground while barely scratching the surface. Percussion massager marketers have modified their machines to drive their heads into the muscle, claiming that it penetrates better and adds the benefits of conventional massage. What they’ve really done is turn their machines into jackhammers.

Reduced effectiveness and reduced penetration

Remember it’s the vibrations that do the work. Jack hammers don’t vibrate the ground anywhere near as much as a compactor so percussion massagers are far less effective. The percussion marketers claim that driving their heads in like jackhammers gives better penetration, but if you look at those two machines the jackhammer head goes in a bit, while the vibrations from the compactor are probably still doing their work a meter or two down.

Dangerous massage gun
Massage guns are designed to "jackhammer" muscles rather than deliver therapeutic vibrations

I hope you can already see the biggest problem with percussion massagers. You can sit a vibration massager on yourself and it’s usually very safe. On the other hand if you have your percussion massager driving it’s head into the muscle it can do all sorts of damage, or worse still hit something like a nerve or a blood vessel.

The "percussion massage" technique

So that’s the machines themselves. I also said the percussion massage technique. Vibration massagers are power tools, and just like most power tools they work best if you just let them do their job. You just sit the machine on and let the vibrations penetrate. If you try and move it around like a convention massage you’re not letting the vibrations soak in, so it will be a lot less effective. However, the marketing gimmick of percussion massagers is that they combine conventional massage with vibrations so that’s exactly what they tell you to do.

Percussion massagers are very poor at delivering therapeutic vibrations anyway so it probably doesn’t matter with them, but I don’t want to see you following their recommendations with a decent vibration massager.

How to get a decent massager

So, how do you find a decent massager. This article discusses what to look for, but they’re not that common though. Most of the massagers on the market are either ineffective consumer consumers, massage guns or both. That’s why a while back to get something decent for our patients we built our own, which are the two machines I’ve used here and in the video.

The General Purpose Massager

This is our General Purpose Massager. We’ve had them for over a decade and they’re widely used and recommended by professionals across a number of countries. They’re very solid and reliable. The business end delivers strong therapeutic vibrations, and they have an ergonomically designed handle so you can easily use it anywhere on your body.

The Ultimate Quad Head Massager

The General Purpose Massagers do a fantastic job, but as you’ve seen they’re limited to what’s under the head, which is why we built our quad head massager.


DrGraeme massagers were originally built by Dr Graeme for use in his clinic, and to prescribe to his patients for additional self use at home. Now these are used by colleagues and other professionals for similar purposes. If you are a professional and wish to know more about this therapy, or possibly get a sample massager to trial please check out our practitioner page.

We are continually adding more information on research and uses. Subscribe below to have us email them to you "hot off the press".

Dr Graeme

About Dr Graeme

Several years ago Dr Graeme, a Chiropractor practicing in Victoria, Australia was looking for a serious hand held massager his patients could use at home to get the extra quality massage they needed. The ones he found in the shops and on-line for home use looked nice but were not serious, and... read more

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