man receiving trigger point therapy

Trigger Points: 10 Terms to Know

Trigger points are disruptions in the fascia. When many trigger points build up, you may develop myofascial pain syndrome. Understanding trigger points and this disorder can help you take better care of your musculoskeletal system. Here are ten terms to know about trigger points.

  1. Fascia: The fascia is a weblike structure that encompasses the muscles and some major organs. It is normally very flexible, and many experts suspect it has a lot to do with overall well-being. Muscle strains, overwork, and injury can damage the fascia. A small “knot” forms, creating a trigger point, which then causes referred pain.
  2. Referred Pain: Trigger points don’t cause pain the way normal injuries do. While you would normally feel the pain at the site of the injury, this is not so for trigger points, presumably because of the all-encompassing nature of the fascia. The trigger point forms at one spot, and then “refers” the pain to a separate area or the pain may radiate out from the trigger point. Generally, this is only localized pain, affecting a single muscle or muscle group. For example, you might develop a trigger point in your shoulder but feel the pain in your neck.
  3. Active Trigger Point: There are four different kinds of trigger points, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Active trigger points are perhaps the easiest to understand, as they are generally the most obviously troublesome. An active trigger point is one that is currently tender or uncomfortable and causing referred pain. 
  4. Latent Trigger Point: A latent trigger point can be more difficult to recognize the presence of. It is not painful or causing pain, but it could become an active trigger point. Perhaps because of this, latent trigger points merit just as much treatment to prevent active trigger point from developing. 
  5. Secondary Trigger Point: Secondary trigger points are kind of like a combination of active and latent trigger points. You may notice it is there, because the spot tends to become irritable. However, it isn’t a truly active trigger point yet. It can, however, become one if an active trigger point develops in another muscle, combined with overworking the affected muscles. 
  6. Satellite Trigger Point: Satellite trigger points were at one point active trigger points. However, because of the way the muscles and fascia interwork, they may become latent when a separate trigger point forms. The new trigger point can take over the area previously affected by the now satellite trigger point. 
  7. Trigger Point Therapy: Trigger point therapy is a type of treatment specifically designed for managing trigger points and myofascial pain syndrome. Physical therapy and some medical treatments can be helpful, but in many cases patients find no relief. The goal of trigger point therapy, rather than working the muscles to try to increase strength and flexibility, is to find the source of the pain (the trigger point) and then use different techniques to induce it to release. 
  8. Roller Therapy: Roller therapy is a type of trigger point therapy. A cylindrical tube of foam is used as a sort of massage technique for treating and preventing trigger points. There are different methods for using a trigger point roller. GRID is a particularly specialized type of roller, with a textured surface that allows blood and oxygen to circulate in the muscles more thoroughly, allowing healing. 
  9. Spray and Stretch Therapy: Spray and stretch therapy is another type of trigger point therapy. Stretching a muscle affected by a trigger point can be difficult because of the pain. Spray and stretch therapy involves external application of a vapocoolant spray before stretching. The extreme coldness of this is intended to trick the muscles into anesthetizing themselves, allowing a more complete stretch that releases the trigger point. 
  10. Dry Needling: Some medical procedures for trigger points involve an injection of a steroid or anesthetic into the trigger point. However, dry needling involves the insertion of the needle without any medication into the trigger point. Many patients find this to be a very effective means of releasing the trigger point.