a skeletal model with a highlighted area over the shoulder, indicating a painful trigger point

Shoulder pain is very common and tends to recur despite medical treatment [5]. When assessing the shoulder, we consider all sources of shoulder pain, from joint dysfunction, endocrine disorders (including diabetic shoulder pain) and muscule/tissue origins of pain, such as frozen shoulder and myofascial pain syndrome, which is associated with trigger points.

Trigger points are hypersensitive painful points in muscle, which can contribute to shoulder pain. Local and referred pain can be elicited by active trigger points in the muscles within, and surrounding the shoulder girdle. Trigger points are often overlooked as an underlying mechanism [5].

More information about trigger points can be found here.

Research on Shoulder Pain and Trigger Points

In research looking at 72 patients with shoulder pain, it was found that most people had active trigger points. Trigger points can be reliably identified by trained physiotherapists [5].

Typically, there are predictable locations of trigger points. These points are in specific muscles as shown below.

  • Active trigger points: most common in infraspinatus (77%) and upper trapezius muscles (58%) [5]
  • Latent trigger points: most common in teres major (49%) and anterior deltoid muscles (38%) [5]
Musculoskeletal model highlighting trigger points in the infraspinatus muscle, which are common in shoulder pain
Musculoskeletal model highlighting trigger points in the teres minor muscle, which are common in shoulder pain
Musculoskeletal model highlighting trigger points in the upper trapezius muscle, which are common in shoulder pain
Musculoskeletal model highlighting trigger points in the anterior deltoid muscle, which are common in shoulder pain

When you’re assessed by the physiotherapists, chiropractors, massage therapists or naturopath at Absolute Health and Wellness, they will assess you for trigger points.

Treating Trigger Points with Dry Needling

Trigger points can be effectively treated with a special form of acupuncture called Trigger Point Acupuncture or dry needling.

This involves repeatedly inserting an acupuncture needle into a trigger point. This is an effective, safe way to treat trigger points. Click here to learn more about trigger points and here for how acupuncture can help.

Click here to book in for dry needling.


Trigger points are commonly found in patients with shoulder pain. If you’ve been dealing with long term shoulder pain, make sure you get trigger points assessed for and treated if applicable.


Interested in learning more?

Read on in our series of articles on Joint Health!

About the Author - Sonia Gashgarian

woman facing camera

Sonia Gashgarian is a registered physiotherapist who graduated with a Master of Science in Physical Therapy from the University of Toronto. Prior to this she completed her Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology with Honours from the University of Waterloo. Sonia has completed courses in sports taping and basic kinesio-taping, as well as the McKenzie Method of Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy and Mulligan Concept. She also has her APTEI Acupuncture and Dry Needling Certification.

Sonia uses a variety of treatment techniques to help clients feel better and return to their regular activities as soon as possible. Her individualized treatments may include the following: education, joint mobilizations, exercise prescription, soft tissue release, trigger point release, taping, acupuncture and dry needling, cupping, and Gua Sha.

To book in please call us at (519) 442-2206 or click here.

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