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Trigger Points – What Are They?

Do you have tender spots in your muscles, that when it is being compressed, it will elicit pain directly over the area itself and also cause a radiation of pain to the adjacent area? If yes, you might have myofascial pain syndrome. Those tender points are actually called trigger points. Trigger points are formed from acute trauma or repetitive microtrauma, these put stress on the muscle fibers, leading to persistent pain.

Trigger points are usually located at the muscle belly, rather than at each of the end points. When being palpated, one can feel that there is a tight band of skeletal muscle, almost like a guitar string. The chronic and repetitive stress being put on the muscle fibers, could cause prolonged shortening of the muscle, thereby creating these muscle ‘knots’.

Myofascial pain syndrome can be differentiated from other acute injuries or joint diseases as the pain is reproducible and radiate to the nearby area. It will also not present with any swelling of the joints.

The trigger point that affects most individuals is the one at the trapezius, which is the midpoint of our shoulder joint and the neck. When that particular trigger point is being compressed with force, one might feel pain directly over it, and pain around the neck, the back of the ear, or even the side of the head.

Several methods could be used to manage myofascial pain syndrome. First being eliminating any predisposing factors such as chronic overuse injuries on muscles, prolonged poor posture, and lack of exercise. Dry needling from trained professionals, massage therapy, manual therapy, and heat application could also mitigate the symptoms.

Reference: Alvarez, D. J., & Rockwell, P. G. (2002). Trigger points: diagnosis and management. American family physician, 65(4), 653.

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