What is a Trigger Point?

Muscle pain and tension. Knots in muscles.

What is a ‘Trigger Point’?

Has your Physiotherapist asked you to use the foam roller or spikey ball due to ‘Trigger Points’, or have they mentioned the term during a therapy session, and you’ve just wondered what that meant?

A “Myofascial Trigger Point” is; ‘A hyperirritable spot, usually within a taught band of skeletal muscle or within the muscle’s fascia, that is painful on compression and that can give rise to characteristic referred pain, tenderness, and autonomic phenomena. (Travell and Simons, 1983.)

In other words, it is hyperirritable bundles of muscle that becomes knotted and firm, unable to contract or relax due to an injury. A Trigger Point will occur within a muscle due to a dysfunction phenomenon in the chemical transfer when muscle fibres contracts and then relaxes. A build up toxin impairs the muscle contraction whilst local blood vessels and nerve fibres are compressed causing sensitisation of the local area. Trigger Points come in multiple forms, both unique;

  • Latent: produces local or referred pain when palpated only
  • Active: produces local or referred pain when palpated and when not palpated

The importance of treating Trigger Points becomes more significant the longer they remain. ‘Active’ Trigger Points become more difficult to remove when becoming ‘Latent’. Ongoing muscular pain may be due to ‘Latent’ Trigger Points. This type of pain may be caused by factors such as poor sitting postures, a movement dysfunction within a joint complex and also by emotional stimulus. Treatment of both Active and Latent Trigger Points by your Physiotherapist may include;

  • stretch techniques
  • deep tissue massage
  • dry needling
  • electrical stimulus and /or TENS
  • manual compression.

Like all Physiotherapy techniques, each treatment option is research-based and chosen due to the patient’s personal needs. Some common sites you may be noticing Trigger Points are the neck, upper shoulders, chest, pelvis, gluteals and through the shoulder blade complex.