Posted on
August 19, 2019

A trigger point is a specific point or small area in a muscle that, if palpated or pressed, is very irritable and will cause pain in another part of the body. For example, if you press a certain point in the gluteal muscle, pain can often be experienced down your leg. Some people think that trigger points are caused by actual knots in muscles, but there is basically no evidence supporting this claim.

Although these irritable areas within muscles can give quite an unpleasant sensations, it’s actually very normal to have trigger points. Even people without pain have them. They are not indicative of anything serious and don’t mean that there are any lesions, tears or tissue damage.

With the amount of work we put our bodies through daily, such as hard manual labour,  repetitive strain or just being in static positions for long periods of time, it should be expected that we will have some areas that are more tender than others. It is not surprising, then, that these areas become more sore and painful every now and then. Trigger points are unlikely to be the primary cause of back and neck pain, but they can become exacerbated in terms of intensity, when you are dealing with pain.

Many people decide to seek out massages (or other passive manual treatment options performed by another person) to try and relieve trigger points. This may help with pain and symptom treatment, however, it’s very important not to put all your focus on trying to get rid of trigger points via passive treatments. 

Don't forget about the importance of using active approaches to manage your neck or back pain such as movement, physical activities and exercising. Staying active within your threshold has been shown to facilitate recovery from back pain, so if you exercised before your pain started, try to continue. Simply make the necessary modifications (for example, decrease intensity or load) so that you can do so without aggravating your pain. 

There is a very good (and simple!) saying when it comes to exercise-based physiotherapy to deal with pain and injury. It goes: "Calm things down, then build things back up again". 

Keep active, do stretching and strengthening exercises and you will find your pain will decrease, and this is usually a more sustainable solution in the long term. Where as trigger point manual therapy should be seen as more of an adjunct to the active approach and as short term symptom modification.