What Are Trigger Points?

We all have experienced “knots” in our muscles at some point. These “knots” are also referred to as trigger points. They are a firm or taut area of muscle that are painful when pressure is applied to it or the muscle is contracted. When pressure is applied to a trigger point, the pain can stay localized to the trigger point or it can be referred to a nearby area of the body.

There are two types of trigger points. The first type is an active trigger point. Active trigger points are always causing some sort of discomfort and when pressure is applied to it, it becomes tenderer. The second type is a latent trigger point and this type of trigger point is only causes pain when pressure is applied to it. Since trigger points are an area of increased “tightness” in the muscle, the presence of either type of trigger point in a muscle can lead to weakness due to the muscle not being able to move through its full range of motion. A few examples of possible causes of trigger points include: stress, muscle overuse, or lack of exercise.

Unfortunately, latent trigger points can become active at any time. This is why strengthening exercises are an important part of your physical therapy program. Studies have shown that people who have active jobs (ex: manual laborers) are less likely to develop active trigger points compared to more sedentary workers (ex: secretary). This is because there is a correlation between strength and the likelihood of developing active trigger points. If you have trigger points present, your physical therapist will work on releasing them during your treatment sessions. As part of your home program, your physical therapist may suggest a foam roller or theracane to help manage your symptoms, especially once discharged from therapy.


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