What is a Trigger Point?

What is a Trigger Point?

by Student Intern Alec Domjan

When people have muscle pain they usually believe they have a trigger point in that muscle. But what is a trigger point and how do we get them? A trigger point is a hyperirritable spot within skeletal muscle typically associated with pain on palpation and presents as a taut band over the muscle belly. These points can refer pain to the surrounding area or extremities on palpation and movement. With all that said, how do trigger points develop and more importantly, what can we do about them? 


To put it simply, trigger points develop around muscles involved in faulty movement patterns or overstress. It is typically not the cause of the dysfunction but rather the result of a poor movement pattern. It is the body’s way of adding some form of protection to that area of the body. That is why after some form of trauma such as falling down and working out you may have felt like you have “tight muscles.” 

Two of the most effective treatments for trigger points are dry needling and Active Release Technique (ART). Dry needling is similar to the method of acupuncture except instead of traditional Chinese medicine points, trigger points are palpated and targeted. The use of dry needling with trigger points reduces your pain sensation in that area of the body by modulating pain perception within your central nervous system. Active Release Technique treats trigger points without the use of needles and instead the provider utilizes his or hands and the knowledge of anatomy and how muscles move to decrease these taught bands. Studies show that pressure pain decreases and strength of the muscle increases post treatment with ART.

Thankfully, both of the methods are utilized every day here at Indy Spine and Rehab! Once the trigger point and point tenderness decrease around the muscle, we use therapeutic exercise to strengthen the muscle and correct the faulty movement pattern that causes these triggers point to develop. If you or someone you know has tight muscles, soreness, or tenderness give us a call or email. We love helping people reach their goals and live a pain-free lifestyle!


Travell JG, Simmons DG, Simmons LS. Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: The Trigger Point Manual-- Upper Half of Body. Baltimore, Md: Williams & Wilkins. 1999.

Fernandez-de-Las-Penas C and Nijs Jo. Trigger point dry needling for the treatment of myofascial pain syndrome: current perspectives within a pain neuroscience paradigm. J Pain Res. 12: 1899-1911. 2019. 

Pecos-Martin D, et al. Immediate effects of variable durations of pressure release technique on latent myofascial trigger points of the levator scapulae: a double-blinded randomised clinical trial. Acupunct Med. 37(3): 141-150. 2019.

Brian Watters