What is a Trigger Point?


It is safe to say that we have all experienced that awful sensation when someone inadvertently grabs you by the top of your shoulder. “Ouch! Oh my gosh that is so tender!”, you exclaim.  That tender spot in the muscle is known as a myofascial trigger point. The upper trapezius muscle is a very common site for myofascial trigger points. MTrP’s affect up to 95% of people suffering from chronic pain. Likewise, they are a common finding for those with an acute neuromusculoskeltal injury; hamstring pulls, headaches, tennis elbow, to name a few.

A TrP, trigger point, as defined by Travell and Simons, are hyperirritable nodules found within taut bands of skeletal muscle and when touched they produce pain and even a twitch response. A trigger point is only identified in dysfunctional muscle tissue, a normal, healthy muscle will not have trigger points. Trigger points can be active or latent. An active TrP is very tender to touch and reproduces spontaneous pain often referred to another region of your body. Additionally, an active TrP will cause stiffness of a joint and loss of range of motion. Latent TrP’s may also be the cause for stiffness or loss of range of motion, but they do not produce spontaneous pain

When a muscle is damaged, it releases a lot of chemicals into the area. The nerve endings in the muscle known as nociceptors then send alerts to the brain that something is WRONG! Our brains perceive this as pain. The problem with those nasty TrP’s is that they create a vicious cycle of information. When the brain perceives that pain, it sends more signals to release more of those nasty chemicals! “How can we interrupt that cycle?” I thought you would never ask!!!

Medications only provide minimal and transient relief because they cannot directly affect the problem. Hence, a recent study was published declaring the poor outcomes of opioid use for chronic pain! The good news, research has discovered that if you can manually illicit a local twitch response, the muscle resets itself and reverses the out pouring of the deleterious chemicals.


Physcial therapists in the state of Texas have it within the scope of their practice to utilize Functional Dry Needling techniques to illicit that local twitch response. After a thorough neuromusculoskeletal examination, the PT will determine where and how many potential TrP’s are affecting a person’s dysfunction. Then through a quick and easy procedure, the physical therapist inserts a needle into the TrP to allow for a muscle reset and improved healing of the tissue. Many times people will have an immediate increase of range of motion and freedom to move!

For more information, please contact us at S2S Functional Performance. We would love to assist you in the management of your pain and injuries!

At S2S, our interdisciplinary team of licensed physical therapists, certified personal trainers, certified Pilates instructors and certified performance enhancement specialists are striving to share with you the most current evidence in maintaining a healthy, energetic and injury-free lifestyle! From preventative to restorative, we’ve got you covered!

Recent Posts