Trigger Points


Trigger points are a chronic pain condition that typically affect the muscles in the upper back. People often refer to trigger points as “knots” in their muscles. Unlike other conditions that produce similar symptoms (i.e. charley horse), trigger points only affect part of the muscle rather than the whole muscle. This condition can affect people very differently. Sometimes, people may develop one trigger point, while others develop several trigger points. The condition can occur in several places all around the body. Unfortunately, muscle pain is a common ailment that can develop from a number of conditions, and because the muscles do not fall under one medical specialty, trigger points can be difficult to diagnose. 


Patients with trigger points may experience muscle pain, and the area may feel stiff or tender. The pain may interfere with the patient’s mobility and cause a reduced range of motion. Because trigger points affect a small part of the muscle, some patients may feel as though a small object is stuck within the muscle, causing immense pain. Trigger points often cause constant pain, even when the patient is not using the muscle. Patients may, however, feel a deep ache that flares up at times, resulting in referred pain.


The exact cause of myofascial trigger points is not quite known, but some suspect it occurs when a small part of the muscle begins to spasm and cut off blood supply. A physician may look for external causes like overuse or stress on the muscle. Overuse or other orthopedic conditions may cause small tears or damage to the muscle, but trigger points do not often cause damage. Physicians may try to identify symptoms of referred pain, which is pain that is located in one area of the body but originates from a trigger point.


To treat trigger point pain, a physician may prescribe medication to help relax the muscle and reduce any inflammation. He or she may refer patients to massage therapists or recommend acupuncture or dry needling to complement treatment received at Southwest Spine and Pain Center. If conservative treatments do not adequately treat a patient’s pain, the patient may have a chronic pain specialist administer a trigger point injection. These injections deliver the medication right to the source of pain to provide longer-lasting relief compared to pain medication.