Trigger Point Therapy

Trigger Point Therapy was pioneered by American physician & medical researcher Janet Travell in the 1950’s. Ms Travell along with David Simons, MD described a trigger point as “A hyperirritable locus in a taut band of skeletal muscle, located in the muscular tissue and / or its associated fascia. The spot is painful on compression and can evoke characteristic referred and autonomic phenomena”. As well as in muscles trigger points can occur in ligaments, joint capsules, periosteum and fascia.

Trigger points are classified into several types depending on their symptoms and location as stated by (Rattray & Ludwig, 2005, pp. 204 – 205)

Active trigger point

Is painful both at rest and with movement of the muscle containing it. The trigger point in the taut band prevents the muscle from fully lengthening and reduces its strength. It is also tender and when compressed typically refers pain in a predictable pattern for that muscle. Pain can be referred locally or distant to the affected muscle.

Latent trigger point

Produces pain only when palpated. All other characteristics of an active trigger point may occur with a latent one including the prevention of full muscle lengthening. Latent trigger points are more common than active ones and may persist for years after the initial injury. In addition a latent trigger point may be reverted to an active state by any referred pain, overuse, overstretching or chilling of the muscle containing it.

Primary trigger point

Directly activated by acute or chronic mechanical strain or overload of the affected muscle and is the main cause of a person’s pain.

Secondary trigger point

Activated in the overworked synergist or antagonist muscles.

Satellite trigger point

Found in muscles that lie within the referral pattern of a primary trigger point or areas where muscle fibres are overloaded because of compensation patterns to protect a primary trigger point.

It is believed that trigger points contribute to muscle pain around the body; upper and low back pain, carpal tunnel symptoms, tennis and golfers elbow, neck pain, headaches and migraines, jaw pain and many kinds of joint pain mistakenly attributed to arthritis. They are also attributed with causing restricted range of motion and autonomic phenomena (dry cough, tearing, tinnitus)

The symptoms of trigger points may mimic the pain of other conditions such as osteoarthritis, tendinitis and cardiac pain.

Trigger points form at areas under stress due to postural habits, poor biomechanics and repetitive motion as well as following injuries, accidents or any other kind of damage.


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