What is a trigger point?

-A trigger point is not an area of scar tissue from an injury. It is an area of increased sensitivity in the muscle. When pressure is applied to this point, pain is usually felt at a distant area, this is called referred pain.

-Trigger points can develop in any skeletal muscle, they are found in a specific area of the muscle and each muscle give referred pain to a specific area.

-To experienced hands a trigger point is felt as a nodule or taut band in the muscle or ligament.

-As chiropractors we diagnose and treat trigger points on a regular basis and they can be a significant source of pain.

What causes a trigger point?

Trigger points are most commonly the result of overuse or trauma:

  • this may be acute, e.g. sudden overloading of a muscle when having to take an unexpected weight,
  • or it can be gradual from chronic abuse of a muscle. This might be a repetitive strain, e.g. from typing, or from a postural problem such as rounded, hunched shoulders, or a weakness of the core stabilizing muscles of the spine.
  • Prolonged increased tension of a muscle due to a protective spasm from a facet joint pain can also be a cause.
  • In addition, TPs may be secondary to some other pathology that may cause pain referred to a muscle. For example, a peptic ulcer may lead to TPs in the deep abdominal muscles, which may persist long after the ulcer has healed.

TPs may be present within a muscle for a number of years without causing many symptoms, except for stiffness of the muscle. This is termed a latent TP. If pain arises, the TP is said to be activated, most commonly by one of these three factors:

  • fresh strain or trauma to the muscle,
  • emotional stress,
  • or physical cold.

Treatment of Trigger Points

There are many techniques the chiropractor can use:

  • Digital (finger) pressure
  • Spray-Stretch Technique
  • Dry Needling
The doctor may use his hand or a small instrument to apply pressure in an attempt to relax the muscles. Once accomplished, patients will normally experience an increase in their ranges of motion and decreased pain/sensitivity.