Myofascial Trigger Points

What Is Myofascial Trigger Points?


Myofascial trigger points are an extremely common cause of pain. Trigger points are painful when pressed on, cause a shortening of the muscle fibers, and have a special property called referred pain. Referred pain means that a trigger point in one muscle can create pain in another area. For instance, when the muscle at the top of your shoulder (trapezius) has a trigger point it will refer pain up the side of your neck and head causing a headache.

Muscles make up between 36-42% of body weight, on average. They are a large percentage of our total weight and have a corresponding impact on our health. When all is in working order, muscles allow us to perform normal activities with ease. When our muscles harbor trigger points, we experience pain, physical limitation and loss of normal function.

A diagnosis of Myofascial Pain Syndrome or Chronic Myofascial Pain means that the primary source of your symptoms are from these myofascial trigger points. Often, trigger points are present secondary to other sources of pain, such as arthritis or bulging discs. The trigger points may actually be causing the painful symptoms attributed to with these conditions. As such, they are often called "the great mimickers".

Diagnoses include:

  • Back pain
  • Headaches
  • Neck pain
  • Rotator cuff (shoulder) pain
  • Jaw pain (TMJD)
  • Tennis elbow
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Hand and arm pain
  • Repetitive Strain Injuries
  • Pelvic pain
  • Hip pain
  • "Sciatic" pain (buttock pain)
  • Leg and knee pain
  • Plantar fascitis (foot) pain
  • Tendinitis/tendinopathy
  • Burstitis
  • Arthritis
  • Disc pain (bulge/rupture/herniation) and radiculopathy
  • Frozen shoulder
  • Fibromyalgia

How Trigger Points Are Formed

  • Repetitive overuse injuries (using the same body parts in the same way hundreds of times on a daily basis) from activities such as typing/mousing, handheld electronics, gardening, home improvement projects, work environments, etc.
  • Sustained loading as with heavy lifting, carrying babies, briefcases, boxes, wearing body armor or lifting bedridden patients.
  • Habitually poor posture due to our sedentary lifestyles, de-conditioning and poorly designed furniture.
  • Muscle clenching and tensing due to mental/emotional stress.
  • Direct injury such as a blow, strain, break, twist or tear. Think car accidents, sports injuries, falling down stairs and the like.
  • Surprisingly, trigger points can even develop due to inactivity such as prolonged bed rest or sitting.