Musculoskeletal diagram illustrating various areas for trigger points or pain on the body with a text bubble saying what are trigger points?

Myofascial pain syndrome is a pain condition characterized by trigger points. Trigger points and Myofascial pain syndrome is recognized by the International Association for the Study of Pain. Emerging research has shown this diagnosis is oftentimes involved in complicated, chronic pain syndromes of all sorts.

What is a Trigger Point?

A trigger point is a hyperirritable spot within a taut band of skeletal muscle that is painful through a wide range of motions, including compression, stretch, overload or contraction of the tissue which usually responds with a referred pain that is perceived distant from the spot [1].

Trigger points present with pain. Sometimes the pain is constant, other times only during specific movements. Patients describe this pain as deep, distant, dull ache, tingling or burning [1].

Picture of trigger point in muscle, which is a hyperirritable or tense spot in a band of tissue

Types of Trigger Points

Trigger points exist as either active trigger points or latent trigger points.

Active trigger points cause a clinical pain complaint. It’s tender, prevents full lengthening of a muscle, weakens the muscle and often provides a local twitch response of muscle fibers when stimulated. More on the twitch response later [1].

Latent trigger points are quiet, meaning they tend to not present as spontaneous pain, unless it is palpated [1].

Both active and latent trigger points can induce referred pain sensations. Referred pain is simply pain that originates in one place and travels somewhere else.

Trigger Points Affect Many Conditions

Active trigger points have been identified in all sorts of conditions, including headaches [2], [3], [4], neck pain [5], whip lash injury [6], shoulder pain [7], back pain [8] and elbow pain [9].

How to Identify Trigger Points

A trained healthcare provider such as a physiotherapist, chiropractor, massage therapist or naturopathic doctor will be able to palpate or locate a trigger point. Since pain is part of the picture, it’s important to make sure the pain you’re feeling is soft tissue and not a structural issue (such as a bone or joint).

The medical history and physical assessment will provide enough information to assess and treat accordingly.

How to Treat Trigger Points

There are various ways to manage a trigger point, including acupuncture and dry needling, as well as massage therapy.

For more information on how dry needling works on trigger points, please click here.


Trigger points are hyper-irritable spots in muscle. They can present pain during movement, at rest or when squeezed. Emerging evidence has shown trigger points are often present in cases of chronic musculoskeletal pain syndromes. Ask the team at Absolute Health and Wellness if trigger points may be a part of your case presentation.


Interested in learning more?

Read on in our series of articles on Pain Management!

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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