Those of you who suffer with them know all too well that at the best, chronic Trigger Points can be terribly annoying.  And at their worst, they can be debilitating.   The term “Trigger Point” was coined by Dr. Janet Travell in 1942, who went on to co-author a ground-breaking book with David Simmons called Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: The Trigger Point Manual.  She also happened to be JFK’s personal physician while he was president.



A Trigger Point is a nodule (a “lump”) of hypersensitive muscle.  It is essentially a hard, marble-sized ball of muscle that causes pain.  Interestingly enough, there are all sorts of theories floating around about Trigger Points, what causes them, fool-proof treatments, etc.  I am not going to delve into these, as there are numerous websites devoted to this topic. If you suffer from Trigger Points, you have probably seen many of them.

Drs. Travell and Simmons definition / explanation of Trigger Points is as follows:

  • Pain related to a specific, irritable, marble-sized point in skeletal muscle or fascia, not caused by acute localized trauma, inflammation, degeneration, abnormal growths (malignant or non-malignant), or infection.
  • The painful point can be felt as a nodule or band in the muscle, and a twitch response can sometimes be elicited on stimulation of the trigger point.
  • Manual Palpation (pressing or squishing) of the Trigger Point reproduces the patient’s complaint of pain, and the pain radiates in a very specific distribution (referral) pattern that is typical of the specific muscle where the Trigger Point is found.
  • The pain cannot be explained by findings of Orthopedic or Neurological Examination.

What we quickly learn via experience and scientific research on the subject is that although we can readily find these trigger points via palpation, no one really knows what causes them or has a fool-proof way of fixing them (even though there are about a million websites that promote various practitioner’s ability to do so). 

If you are interested in learning about the two sides of the coin that is “Myofacial Syndrome” (hint: Trigger Points are only half the equation), take just a moment to read this post on Fascial Adhesions, and the way they relate to chronic Trigger Points (HERE).



8 responses to “TRIGGER POINTS

  1. Mayra

    I am a 19 year old massage therapist in California. You cannot prevent trigger points whether you stay at home watching tv all day or work 8 hours a day. I have quadratus lumborus syndrome and I am not able to bend down or sit down and bring my head down. Tomorrow I will be getting worked on.
    So again, you can’t prevent trigger points. Try getting worked on at least once or twice a week; get actual medical massages.

    • Hello Mayra,

      Thanks for the comment. Theories abound on why people get TP’s. I understand your response, but many people do respond. Although I see triggers in the QL, they are not really what I would call common (I see much more Fascial Adhesion in that area). The most common place (by far) for chronic TP’s is the upper traps. The way I have kept mine under control can be found HERE. Digging on them helps short-term, but the extension has made a big difference for me and any number of my patients.

      Dr. Russ

  2. Derek

    Hey, I am 21 years old and I have been suffering from trigger points throughout my back, upper back, shoulders, and neck…I have done two treatments of dry needling and while it did relieve me of a lot of pain, the trigger points seem to come back. I just do not know how to prevent them from occurring.

  3. Daniel

    I have been suffering from triggerpoint pain for 6 years now and would like to share that DRY NEEDLING has been the only therapy that really helps deactivating them. I tried a lot of stuf, e.g. the above praised accupuncture, but none of that helped.

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