Pain by trigger point

Tender spots, pressure point, muscle knots. These are common non-medical terms people often use to describe myofascial trigger points.  Trigger points can be explained as hyper-irritable nodules that are be found in taut bands of muscle.

When pressed or palpated trigger points feel like “knots” or “nodules” in a muscle, and usually generate local pain, referred pain (pain elsewhere in the body),  or a local twitch - known as the “local twitch response”.   Most people have experienced the local and referred pain of an active trigger point in the upper trapezius muscle (upper traps) of the neck.  When it is palpated it can elicit headache type pain along the lateral (outside) of the neck and head as seen in the photo below.

The “nodule” or “knot” we feel when palpating a trigger point is actually several tiny muscle fibers contracted into one area. It is caused by muscle overuse, postural strain and/or trauma.  The development of a trigger point in a muscle can cause muscle shortening, tension and fatigue.  Trigger points may also cause muscle weakness, loss of coordination and reduced range of motion. Many of these trigger point induced problems can be eliminated or managed by having the triggers points found and released. 

The two most common types of trigger points:


1.  Active Trigger Points

Active trigger points are clinically the most significant because they are cause pain.  Pain can be experienced upon palpation of the trigger point or it can develop spontaneously and cause pain at both rest and play.  Active trigger points may cause muscles stiffness, tension, local pain and / or referred pain to different and remote areas of the body.  Upon release of the trigger point the pain (both local and referred), stiffness, tension and muscle shortening often subsides.  Below is a diagram of the referred pain pattern caused by a active trigger points in the Gluteus Medius (one of the muscles of the butt).

2.  Latent Trigger Points

Latent trigger points are found more frequently than active trigger points and are commonly discovered in patterns of muscular tension that define a persons normal posture.  Like active trigger points latent trigger points do cause muscle tension and can restrict movement, but unlike active trigger points they are only painful when squeezed or palpated and do not cause spontaneous pain.  However, latent trigger points can become active when exposed to repetitive movements, prolonged muscle contractions, muscle trauma or muscle overload.


Trigger points can develop in any muscular area of the body, but the most common locations of both active and latent trigger points is in the muscles of the neck, shoulders, back and the butt.

In my next article I will discuss neck pain caused by trigger points and some factors to be aware of. 


For any questions or to book an appointment please contact my office at (250) 860-2212 or visit my website: www.kelownaacupunctureclinic.com

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Ryan Samuels is a Registered Acupuncturist and Chinese Medical Herbalist (R.Ac, R.TCMP) at KLO Chiropractic Centre in Kelowna. He holds a Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine diploma, and has a special interest in the treatment of digestive issues, neuropathy, acute & chronic pain, sports injuries, and migraines.  All treatments with Ryan are individualized and designed around your current physical and mental well being. 

Website link:  http://www.kelownaacupunctureclinic.com/

Contact Email:  [email protected] 

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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