Pathophysiology of trigger points.

A large number of factors have been identified as causes of trigger point activation. These include acute or chronic overload of muscle tissue, disease, psychological distress, systemic inflammation, homeostatic imbalances, direct trauma, radiculopathy, infections, and lifestyle choices such as smoking. Trigger points form as a local contraction of muscle fibres in a muscle or bundle of muscle fibres. These can pull on ligaments and tendons associated with the muscle which can cause pain to be felt deep inside a joint. It is theorized that trigger points form from excessive release of acetylcholine causing sustained depolarization of muscle fibres. Trigger points present an abnormal biochemical composition with elevated levels of acetylcholine, noradrenaline and serotonin and a lower ph. The contracted fibres in a trigger point constricts blood supply to the area creating an energy crisis in the tissue that results in the production of sensitizing substances that interact with pain receptors producing pain. When trigger points are present in a muscle there is often pain and weakness in the associated structures. These pain patterns follow specific nerve pathways that have been well mapped to allow for accurate diagnosis or the causative pain factor.


Diagnosis of trigger points.

Diagnosis of trigger points typically takes into account symptoms, pain patterns, and manual palpation. When palpating the therapist will feel for a taut band of muscle with a hard nodule within it. Often a local twitch response will be elicited by running a finger perpendicular to the muscle fibres direction. Pressure applied to the trigger point will often reproduce the pain complaint of the patient and the referral pattern of the trigger point. Often there is a heat differential in the local area of the trigger point.

What is a trigger point

Dr Janet travel coined the term trigger point in 1942 to describe clinical findings with characteristics of pain related a discrete irritable point in muscle or fascia that was not caused by acute trauma, inflammation, degeneration, neoplasm or infection. The painful point can be palpated as a nodule or tight band in the muscle that can produce a local twitch response when stimulated. Palpation of the trigger point reproduces the pain and symptoms of the patient and the pain radiates in a predictable referral pattern specific to the muscle harbouring the trigger point.

What to expect with a trigger point massage.

A treatment with Bryan is very user friendly. And, no, you don’t have to remove any clothing. However, bringing a t-shirt and a pair of shorts or sweats is recommended.

The first time you come for a treatment you will be asked to fill out a Client History form. Bryan will go over the information you provide, asking for more detail and discussing the type of pain you are having and its location.

The treatment itself involves locating the Trigger Points in the muscle or soft tissue and applying a deep focused pressure to the Point. This will reproduce the pain and the referral pattern that is characteristic of that pain.

The treatment will be uncomfortable at first, but as the Trigger Points release, the pain will decrease. The pressure will always be adjusted to your tolerance level. If, at any time, you feel too uncomfortable you can ask Bryan to ease off a bit.

Depending on your specific problem, Bryan may also use some stretching and / or range-of-motion techniques, as needed.

After treatment, it is usually recommended that the client apply moist heat to the area treated.

PFPS Cont. You want details?

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The muscles of the hip provide not only local stability, but also play an important role in spinal and lower extremity functional alignment. (1-4) While weakness in some hip muscles (hip extensors and knee extensors) is well tolerated, weakness or imbalance in others can have a profound effect on gait and biomechanical function throughout the lower half of the body. (5) Weakness of the hip abductors, particularly those that assist with external rotation, has the most significant impact on hip and lower extremity stability. (5,6)

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The gluteus medius is the principal hip abductor. When the hip is flexed, the muscle also assists the six deep hip external rotators (piriformis, gemelli, obturators, and quadratus femoris). The gluteus medius originates on the ilium just inferior to the iliac crest and inserts on the lateral and superior aspects of the greater trochanter. While the principal declared action of the gluteus medius is hip abduction, clinicians will appreciate its more valuable contribution as a dynamic stabilizer of the hip and pelvis- particularly during single leg stance activities like walking, running, and squatting. The gluteus medius contributes approximately 70% of the abduction force required to maintain pelvic leveling during single leg stance. The remainder comes predominantly from 2 muscles that insert onto the iliotibial band: the tensor fascia lata and upper gluteus maximus.  Hip abductor strength is the single greatest contributor to lower extremity frontal plain alignment during activity. (6)

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Incompetent hip abductors and/or external rotators allows for excessive adduction and internal rotation of the thigh during single leg stance activities. This leads to a cascade of biomechanical problems, including pelvic drop, excessive hip adduction, excessive femoral internal rotation, valgus knee stress, and internal tibial rotation. (1,7-12)


1. Szu-Ping Lee, Powers C. Description of a Weight-Bearing Method to Assess Hip Abductor and External Rotator Muscle Performance. JOSPT. Volume 43, Issue 6
2. Crossley KM, Zhang WJ, Schache AG, Bryant A, Cowan SM. Performance on the single-leg squat task indicates hip abductor muscle function. Am J Sports Med. 2011;39:866-873.
3. Presswood L, Cronin J, Keogh JWL, Whatman C. Gluteus medius: applied anatomy, dysfunction, assessment, and progressive strengthening. Strength Cond J. 2008;30:41-53.
4. Sled EA, Khoja L, Deluzio KJ, Olney SJ, Culham EG. Effect of a home program of hip abductor ex- ercises on knee joint loading, strength, function, and pain in people with knee osteoarthritis: a clinical trial. Phys Ther. 2010;90:895-904.
5. van der Krogt MM, Delp SL, Schwartz MH How robust is human gait to muscle weakness? Gait Posture. 2012 Feb 29.
6. Laurie Stickler, Margaret Finley, Heather Gulgin Relationship between hip and core strength and frontal plane alignment during a single leg squat Physical Therapy in Sport Available online 2 June 2014
7. Ireland ML, Willson JD, Ballantyne BT, Davis
IM. Hip strength in females with and without patellofemoral pain. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2003;33:671-676.
8. Noehren B, Davis I, Hamill J. ASB clinical biome- chanics award winner 2006: prospective study of the biomechanical factors associated with iliotib- ial band syndrome. Clin Biomech (Bristol, Avon). 2007;22:951-956.
9. Powers CM. The influence of abnormal hip me- chanics on knee injury: a biomechanical perspec- tive. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2010;40:42-51.
10. Powers CM. The influence of altered lower- extremity kinematics on patellofemoral joint dysfunction: a theoretical perspective. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2003;33:639-646.
11. Sigward SM, Powers CM. Loading characteristics of females exhibiting excessive valgus moments during cutting. Clin Biomech (Bristol, Avon). 2007;22:827-833
12. Souza RB, Powers CM. Differences in hip kine- matics, muscle strength, and muscle activation between subjects with and without patellofemo- ral pain. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2009;39:12- 19.