You may have heard the words “trigger point” used by your chiropractor or massage therapist, or seen it in a description as a type of care, as in “trigger point massage.” But what is a trigger point?
Trigger points can be described as myofascial knots in the skeletal muscle. These knots create palpable nodules in the muscle fibers. The most common muscles affected are in the head and neck area, which can lead to the development of other symptoms such as headaches, jaw pain, ringing in the ear, and eye pain. When trigger points are present in a muscle, there is often pain and weakness in the associated structures, and this persistent pain often results in decreased range of motion. Trigger points may be painful at the site of the trigger point, but may also refer pain elsewhere in the body along specific nerve pathways. Many trigger points have pain patterns that overlap, and some create reciprocal cyclic relationships.
Types of Trigger Points:
Active- An active trigger point causes pain at rest. The pain is often described as spreading or radiating.
Latent- A latent trigger point does not cause spontaneous pain, but may cause limited mobility or muscle weakness
Trigger points can be caused by injuries, lack of exercise, chronic poor posture, sleep disturbances, or occupational or recreational activities that produce repetitive stress. Subsequently, activation of trigger points may be caused by a number of factors, including acute or chronic muscle overload, disease, psychological distress, direct trauma to the region, health issues such as smoking.
Fortunately, there are many ways to manage trigger points such as chiropractic care, acupuncture, massage, and ultrasound therapy. There are also many great self-massaging tools available to help you work out trigger points on your own at home. Some are even cleverly designed to help you reach common trigger points on the back and neck. Ask your massage therapist or chiropractor for more information at your next appointment!