What are Trigger Points? Causes, Forms, and Pain Relief

Trigger points, those elusive sources of muscle discomfort, have puzzled many individuals. If you’ve ever experienced persistent, nagging pain radiating from a specific area in your body, you’ve likely grappled with the challenge of identifying its origin. In this article, we’ll delve into the realm of trigger points, exploring their definition, causes, variations, and, most importantly, effective ways to alleviate the associated pain.

Understanding Trigger Points

An image showing a man expertly massaging a woman's trapezius muscle, targeting a trigger point for pain relief and muscle relaxation.

Trigger points are localized muscle knots or tense bands of muscle fibers that are sensitive to pressure and capable of causing referred pain. They typically form due to muscle overuse or misuse, leading to the development of tense, fibrotic tissue in the surrounding area. This fibrotic tissue can hinder regular muscle movement and result in discomfort or pain.

Recommended techniques for using percussion massage guns on trigger points.

The Link Between Trigger Points and Pain

The relationship between trigger points and pain is well-established in the domain of myofascial pain syndrome (MPS). MPS is characterized by the presence of one or more trigger points within muscle tissue, capable of causing pain in various parts of the body, even in remote areas from the actual trigger point.

To comprehend this phenomenon, envision a network of interconnected muscles and fascia throughout your body. When a trigger point forms in one of these muscles, it can transmit pain signals along nerve pathways, causing discomfort in seemingly unrelated regions. This phenomenon is known as referred pain and can be perplexing for those experiencing it.

Types of Trigger Points

Two primary types of trigger points exist: active and latent. Distinguishing between these types is crucial, as they exhibit distinct characteristics and necessitate different treatment approaches.

  1. Active Trigger Points:
    • Active trigger points are the more notorious of the two, capable of causing immediate and evident pain or discomfort when touched or pressed.
    • These points are often associated with discernible muscle knots palpable beneath the skin’s surface.
    • Active trigger points are typically responsible for acute pain conditions and are the primary focus of treatment.
  2. Latent Trigger Points:
    • In contrast, latent trigger points do not cause immediate pain upon touch. They remain dormant within the muscle, awaiting activation.
    • While they may not produce immediate discomfort, latent trigger points can limit regular muscle movement and contribute to chronic pain conditions.
    • Under certain conditions, such as overexertion or muscle trauma, latent trigger points can become active.

Causes of Trigger Points

Trigger points can emerge due to various factors, and their origins are not always straightforward. Nonetheless, several common factors contribute to their development:

  1. Muscle Overuse: Excessive or repetitive use of a particular muscle group can lead to trigger point formation, often observed in individuals with physically demanding jobs or athletes who push their bodies to the limit.
  2. Muscle Imbalance: When certain muscles are stronger or weaker than their opposing counterparts, it can create imbalances that foster trigger point development.
  3. Poor Posture: Maintaining inadequate posture for extended periods can place undue stress on specific muscle groups, encouraging trigger point formation.
  4. Trauma or Injury: Acute injuries, such as sprains or strains, can trigger the formation of trigger points as muscles compensate for the injury.
  5. Stress and Tension: Emotional and psychological stress can manifest as muscle tension in the body, elevating the likelihood of trigger point development.
  6. Inactivity: Extended periods of inactivity, such as prolonged sitting at a desk, can contribute to muscle stiffness and trigger point formation.

Locating Trigger Points

Accurately identifying trigger point locations can be challenging, but it is a pivotal step in effective treatment. While healthcare providers, physical therapists, and massage therapists possess the expertise to manually locate trigger points, individuals can attempt self-assessment at home.

  1. Self-Examination: Gently palpate and explore your muscles, paying close attention to areas exhibiting tenderness or discomfort. Should you encounter a spot eliciting pain or discomfort, it may signify the presence of a trigger point.
  2. Referral Pain Patterns: Familiarize yourself with common referral pain patterns associated with trigger points. For instance, a trigger point in a shoulder muscle might induce pain in the neck or arm.
  3. Seek Professional Help: If you suspect the presence of trigger points but encounter difficulties in identifying or managing the pain, consulting a healthcare provider or a proficient manual therapist is advisable for a comprehensive assessment.

Treatment Options for Trigger Points

Once you’ve pinpointed trigger points, it becomes vital to explore diverse treatment options for pain relief. Here are effective strategies:

  1. Manual Therapy: Skilled therapists employ various techniques, including trigger point release and myofascial release, to apply pressure and alleviate tension in trigger points. This manual therapy is highly effective in mitigating pain and restoring regular muscle function.
  2. Stretching and Range of Motion Exercises: Incorporate gentle stretching and range of motion exercises into your daily routine to prevent trigger points and alleviate existing ones. These exercises help maintain muscle flexibility.
  3. Heat and Cold Therapy: Application of heat, such as warm baths or heating pads, relaxes tense muscles and enhances blood flow to the affected area. Cold therapy, like ice packs, reduces inflammation and provides pain relief.
  4. Massage Therapy: Professional massage therapists target trigger points using deep tissue massage techniques, offering relief. Regular massages can help prevent trigger point recurrence.
  5. Acupuncture: Acupuncture, a holistic approach, involves inserting fine needles into specific body points to stimulate healing and alleviate pain, including trigger point pain.
  6. Medications: In some cases, healthcare providers may prescribe pain-relieving medications or muscle relaxants for temporary management of trigger point pain.
  7. Self-Myofascial Release: Invest in tools such as foam rollers, massage balls, or massage guns for self-myofascial release at home. These tools apply targeted pressure to trigger points, relieving tension.
  8. Posture Correction: Addressing poor posture habits and incorporating ergonomic adjustments into your daily life helps prevent trigger point formation.

Percussion Massage Guns: A Modern Approach to Treating Trigger Points

A LifePro Percussion Massage Gun with multiple accessory attachments. The massage gun is a handheld device designed to provide deep tissue massage for muscle recovery and pain relief. The included accessories offer different types of massage experiences, targeting various muscle groups and pressure points.

In recent years, the world of trigger point therapy has witnessed a significant advancement with the introduction of percussion massage guns. These innovative devices have gained popularity for their effectiveness in targeting trigger points and providing relief.

Take a look at purchasing options for percussion massage here.

Here, we explore how percussion massage guns work and their role in the management of trigger points.

Percussion massage guns, also known as massage guns or massage percussion devices, are handheld tools designed to deliver rapid, targeted pulses of pressure to muscle tissue. They operate through a mechanism that involves a high-frequency motor rapidly driving a massage head back and forth, delivering powerful percussive impacts to the body’s soft tissues.

These percussive impacts have several benefits when it comes to treating trigger points:

  1. Increased Blood Flow: The rapid pulsations generated by massage guns help enhance blood circulation in the affected area, promoting the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to muscle tissues and facilitating the removal of metabolic waste products. This increased blood flow aids in muscle recovery and the healing of trigger points.
  2. Muscle Relaxation: Percussion massage guns work to relax muscle fibers and release muscle tension. The rhythmic percussive action can help break down knots and adhesions in trigger points, reducing their size and alleviating discomfort.
  3. Neuromuscular Stimulation: The repetitive stimulation of muscle fibers by the massage gun can activate the neuromuscular system, encouraging muscle relaxation and reducing pain signals sent to the brain from trigger points.

Recommendations for using percussion massage guns in cold or hot environments.


Understanding trigger points, their causes, and the diverse forms they can assume is essential for effective pain management and overall well-being. Although trigger points can generate substantial discomfort, they are not insurmountable obstacles. Armed with the right knowledge and a combination of therapies and lifestyle adjustments, you can take charge of your muscular health and bid farewell to trigger point pain. Remember, if you grapple with persistent pain, seeking guidance from a healthcare professional is always advisable, as they can offer personalized treatment options tailored to your unique needs.