What are Trigger Points and How Do You Get Rid of Them?

Trigger points are painful knots or nodules that can be felt in tight muscle bands. People diagnosed with trigger points may be told that they have myofascial pain syndrome which is a fancy term for muscle pain and inflammation (Niel-Asher, 2014). More common than most of us want to admit, adults feel like they have tight or stiff muscles. When you rub those muscles, frequently a knot is felt with deep pressure. Those painful knots are trigger points.

Tigger points often cause a radiating pain pattern (Niel-Asher, 2014). Here is an example of a radiating pain pattern: a patient comes in complaining of a stiff upper back and pain in the right upper arm. With deep pressure applied to the upper back a knot is felt. By treating the trigger point in the back, the pain in the upper arm can be relieved due to a radiating pain pattern; meaning, the pain in the upper arm was not physiological in nature, but caused due to the taunt musculature in the patient’s back.

There are many different causes of trigger points. Poor posture is a major cause of tight muscles. Occupational stressors, direct trauma, scoliosis, lifting heavy objects, TMJ syndrome, whiplash, and repetitive activities or sports are other frequent causes of trigger points (Niel-Asher, 2014).

There are a handful of different remedies to treat trigger points. Cactus Medical Center combines trigger point injection (TPI) therapy, rehab, massage, and chiropractic care to decrease the pain caused from tight muscle bands. TPI therapy involves a small injection of local anesthetic and an anti-inflammatory into the knotted muscle. The anesthetic allows for almost immediate reduction of pain, while the anti-inflammatory helps to reduce inflammation inside the muscle. TPI therapy needs to be repeated up to twice weekly depending on areas needing therapy. TPI therapy works best if paired with rehab to strengthen and stretch the muscle for a long-term solution.