Trigger points, are the result of tiny contractive knots that can develop in muscle fibres and fascia when an area of the body is injured or overworked.  They may occur as a result of muscle trauma (from car accidents, falls, sport and work-related injuries, etc.), muscle strains, abnormal posture, stress, anxiety, allergies, nutritional deficiencies and inflammation.

The body’s instinctive reaction to a traumatic “event” is to protect itself. It does this by causing a spasm of the fascia and myofascia to prevent movement and further injury, this may alter the way we move, sit, or stand, which can put abnormal stress on muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints.  This can cause strength and flexibility imbalances in the muscles, as well as postural alterations throughout the body.

When a trigger point occurs it can be with us for a long time, and we can even suffer the effects for years and years if that trigger point is not treated properly.

image showing triggerpoints

Trigger points can cause a lot of pain and distress.

A key aspect of trigger points is a referred pain.  This means that trigger points typically send their pain to some other place in the body, which is why conventional treatments for pain so often fail.  The active trigger point referral symptom may feel like a dull ache, deep, pressing pain, burning, or a sensation of numbness and fatigue.  Trigger points have been linked to chronic back pain, recurrent migraines, and even heartburn, toothaches and jaw pain.  It can also cause sweating, goose bumps and dizziness[1].  Many health care practitioners wrongly assume that the problem is always located where the pain is, and therefore fail to assess the body correctly to find the cause of your pain.

We can also have “latent” trigger points, which we may be unaware of unless they are pressed on directly.  These latent trigger points can lead to muscle stiffness and weakness which may cause joint restriction, and they can become active again when the muscles are stressed or overworked, we are tired or fighting off an infection, under a lot of emotional stress, and so forth.

Since a trigger point is the contraction mechanism of the muscle locked into a shortened position, by unlocking that contraction mechanism the trigger point can be relaxed.  This can be done in various ways.  Pioneers in this field (David Simons, MD and Janet Travell, MD)[2] developed a method which involves applying pressure with a finger or other instrument to the trigger point and increasing the force (pressure) on the trigger point as it “releases” and becomes softer.  What it needs is sufficient deep sustained pressure to the “knotted-up area is and just rubbing the skin will not produce the desired effect.  By working on the trigger point, we undergo soft tissue release, allowing an increasing of local blood flow, muscle spasm reduction, and the break-up of tissue adhesions.  It may also help remove any build-up of toxic metabolic waste.  The area will also undergo a neurological release, reducing the pain signals to the brain and resetting the incorrectly firing neuromuscular system restoring it’s proper function, and the altered muscles and tissues should start working correctly again.

How long it takes to release a trigger point depends on a number of factors, one of which is the length of time we have had the trigger point. Other factors include the number of trigger points we have, the effectiveness of the treatment and the experience of the practitioner


[1] National Association of Myofascial Trigger Point Therapists, Myofascial Therapy, http://www.myofascialtherapy.org/myofascial-therapy/index.html  What Is It?

[2] Travell and Simon’s Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction