Overview of Trigger Points Therapy

In a previous blog we spoke about shoulder pain caused by repetitive movements, poor lifting techniques, misfiring muscles or imbalances. We then went on to talk about upper and lower cross syndrome. Today we’ll be talking about repetitive movements.

What are they?

Muscle aches and pains are a part of everyday life, much like that cynical quote “Pain lets you know you’re alive” This is particularly true as trigger points are a natural part of the muscle tissue whether you use them all the time or don’t. What also is interesting about trigger points (TrP) is that they can cause pain problems, complicate existing pain problems and or mimic other pain problems. Trigger points aka muscle knots are hypersensitive spots in the muscle tissue which as their name implies are tender and sore to touch.

Why they form and cause pain

When speaking of “knots” we’re talking about muscle knots, they are sometimes felt yet most often not, and often accompanied by tight or tense muscles. The general consensus is that a trigger point is a tiny patch of tightly contracted muscle within the muscle tissue. This then chokes off its own blood supply which then further irritates the area in a self-destructive kind of way

Trigger points can be categorised into 2 categories; active and latent. Active is when they hurt even without outside interference e.g. someone poking them, and latent is painful when touched

Characteristics of a Trigger Point

Trigger points have a few characteristics that can set them apart from a Tender Point. Tender points are localised pain, and just as their name suggests; they are tender to touch but only in that area. On the other hand with trigger points direct pressure can cause people to jump, sensation of localised  tenderness, a twitch response and referred pain i.e a touch to the calf muscle and you can feel pain or tension in your lower back.

Common Trigger Point referral patterns

  • Headaches/migraines  > Mid back, TrP in neck (front and back)
  • Sciatica > glutes, hamstrings, gastrocnemius
  • Tingling/numbness in fingertips > TrP in subscapularis /teres major & minor, infraspinatus,  deltoids. (TrP in your shoulders cause tingling or weak hands)

Treatment options- Massage, needling, cupping, foam roller, trigger point ball

Treatment for trigger points are varied and you will get results depending on the severity of your pain, how long you have been in pain, the way your therapist goes about treating you and also the individual person’s response to treatment. Each person is different, not only in personality but also physically. A treatment may work on person A but not on person B.

Trigger point therapy is a treatment that involves frictions and or applying pressure to these trigger points. Dry needling is also an option where instead of using fingers, knuckles or elbows you use an acupuncture needle instead. Cupping can also be used. Placing the cups on the trigger point helps to decompress the trigger point and surrounding muscle. Include this with stretching and the effects are increased.

When you can’t book in with a therapist or are in between treatments using a foam roller or a trigger point ball is a good substitute. Using your own weight or gravity you can target the trigger points, not as good obviously as us but it will provide you with short term relief.


Tara @ Active You