What Are Myofascial Trigger Points?

Myofascial Release, or Fascia for short, is becoming more popular with both conventional and alternative medicine practitioners alike. Not to be confusing with the “tendinoid” muscles, which are thought to be involved in fibromyalgia, myofascial trigger points are those areas where muscle contractions cause painful and sometimes unbearable discomfort. Trigger points can be caused by mechanical strain, repetitive overuse, or the direct result of physical trauma or illness.


Myofascial Trigger Points, also called myofascial release, can be found throughout the body but are most frequently found in the muscles of the shoulder and hip. Myofascial trigger points can be found anywhere on the body but tend to be concentrated in areas of extreme stress and tension, such as the back, neck, shoulders, and hamstrings, among other areas. Myofascial trigger points are most commonly identified in the shoulders, hips, and lower back; however they can also be found in the knees, wrists, elbows, and fingers. Trigger points can cause pain, inflammation, and general weakness; sometimes resulting in difficulty even moving your arms.

Trigger points can be treated using a wide variety of treatment options, including massage, exercise, and cold or hot packs. Trigger point therapy is often used for relief of pain, especially in the soft tissues of the body, including muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Trigger Point Therapy is often used in conjunction with other treatment options, including therapeutic exercise, therapeutic relaxation techniques, and the use of traditional Chinese medicine such as acupuncture, qigong, and tai chi. Trigger Point Therapy also has the potential to cause increased pain or discomfort if it is not performed correctly, and has been found to increase the likelihood of an injury when used incorrectly. Trigger Point Therapy is often used by chiropractors to treat low back pain related to trigger points in the spine, and is often referred to as “dry needling”.

Dry Needling refers to the application of a sharp, dry needle that is placed just deep enough into a muscle or at the base of a joint to cause a localized, sometimes superficial, amount of pain or tenderness, which is frequently felt after the treatment is finished. Because the needles are placed so deeply, pain is not normally felt immediately following the treatment, as is the case with frozen bladder reflexology. Dry needling is typically used on individuals who have local nodular or extramural nodules and is not recommended for individuals with severe or extensive pain. Often referred to as “frozen bladder”, dry needling can also be combined with ultrasound to help increase penetration into the muscle tissue for better pain relief.

Myofascial triggers vary from person to person and are often difficult to identify initially. Common trigger points are referred pain patterns or postural patterns, which may be felt as clicking, popping, or grating along with localized tenderness. Trigger points can be very personalized, as a person who experiences chronic back pain may find relief by performing certain yoga positions. Therapists often recommend the use of yoga as part of a treatment program due to the holistic approach it incorporates, which often includes an emphasis on the client’s body, posture and relaxation.

Trigger points and chronic pain can be very difficult to treat, especially when the underlying cause is unknown. However, when the therapist treats a client suffering from Myofascial triggers, many improvements can be seen. In fact, in many cases, Myofascial pain patterns are successfully reversed and therapists find that their clients begin to experience significant pain relief.