Trigger points are areas of taught, hypercontracted bands or nodules within a muscle. They’re tender to touch and have a predicted pain referral pattern. They can feel like small bumps or like thin ropes placed together.
The following is an example of trigger points in the sterocleidomastoid muscle.
A – represents a normal muscle fiber.
B – represents a trigger point.
C – represents a taught band, where normal muscle due to the contraction of the trigger point is now placed under pressure.
An active trigger point when pressured will refer pain to the area immediately around it or even to another part of the body. If you have a headache, pinch your upper traps. When you hit the trigger point you will experience an increase of the actual headache.
Trigger points love company and can often be found in clusters. It is important when releasing one trigger point to spend time releasing others in the vicinity. The trigger points are often found in the belly or center of the muscle. However others often form at the insertion points of the muscle.
Trigger points are focal areas of hypertonicity that are not painful during movement but are painful upon palpation. They are localized, hyperirritable taut bands within the muscle (Travell and Simons 1992; Simons, Travell, and Simons 1999; Mense and Simons 2001).
The overall tone and length of the muscle harboring these Trigger points are not necessarily abnormal: Only one or more subsections of the muscle may be affected. These hypertonic taut bands have a decreased threshold to stimulation and tend to contract first but inefficiently in voluntary movement.
Any muscle can develop a trigger point. Your muscles that hold you upright normally develop trigger points that are more difficult to get rid of.
Factors that increase your risk of injury –
- People with desk bound/computer based jobs are at risk of developing trigger points both on the shoulders and neck regions.
- People training hard.
- Trauma (local inflammatory reaction)
- Adverse environmental conditions (cold, heat, damp)
- Prolonged immobility
- Allergies (food and other)
- Nutritional deficiency (especially C, B-complex and iron)
- Hormonal imbalance (thyroid, in particular)
What can we do about trigger points?
Trigger points can be dealt with via a number of different techniques. These include general massage, localised pressure on the point, stretching while releasing the muscle, dry neeling and kinesiology tape application. You can read more here.
Give us a call if we can help.