A very common muscle to become overloaded and damaged, and thus develop trigger points, is the pectoralis major muscle. This is the muscle that makes up the chest. It’s main functions are adduction and internal rotation at the shoulder. Poor rounded shoulder posture is a common cause of pec tightness and trigger points. trigger points in this muscle will produce pain felt into the front of the shoulder, the chest, and down the medial arm. If these symptoms occur in the left pec it can mimick heart pain. In women, these points can be a cause of breast pain and nipple hypersensitivity.
The levator scapulae muscle is located in the neck. It attaches from the cervical vertebrae to the top of the shoulder blade. It is responsible for elevation of the shoulder and lateral flexion of the neck. This muscle is often overloaded from poor shoulder posture such as holding your shoulders up to your ears when stressed. When this happens trigger points will develop causing pain to be felt along the shoulder blade and into the neck. Trigger points in this muscle are the most common cause of a stiff sore neck.
TP’s were first brought to the attention of the medical world by Dr. Janet G. Travell. Dr. Travell, physician to President John F. Kennedy, is the acknowledged Mother of Myofascial Trigger Points. In fact, “Trigger Point massage, the most effective modality used by massage therapists for the relief of pain, is based almost entirely on Dr. Travell’s insights.”2 Dr. Travell’s partner in her research was Dr. David G. Simons, a research scientist and aerospace physician.
Trigger Points are very common. In fact, Travell and Simons state that TP’s are responsible for, or associated with, 75% of pain complaints or conditions.1 With this kind of prevalence, it’s no wonder that TP’s are often referred to as the “scourge of mankind”.
Trigger Points can produce a wide variety of pain complaints. Some of the most common are migraine headaches, back pain, and pain and tingling into the extremities. They are usually responsible for most cases of achy deep pain that is hard to localize.
A TP will refer pain in a predictable pattern, based on its location in a given muscle. Also, since these spots are bundles of contracted muscle fibres, they can cause stiffness and a decreased range of motion. Chronic conditions with many TP’s can also cause general fatigue and malaise, as well as muscle weakness.
The Gluteus medius is located in your hip. It is important for hip stability, and functions to abduct the hip. When trigger points form in this muscle pain can be felt deep into the sacrum and the hip, as well as down the lateral thigh. Trigger points in this muscle are an often overlooked source of low back and sacral pain.
One of the most common issues that I treat in my clinic on a regular basis is neck stiffness and pain. This is a prevelent problem in our society in large part due to poor posture. Sitting in front of a computer at work all day, or being on you phone will eventually cause the muscles in you neck to become strained and over worked. When this happens the muscles become tight and sore. At this point all the stretching in the world won’t make a difference. A manual intervention such as trigger point massage is needed to allow the muscles to heal and function normally again.
What is a Trigger Point?
Trigger Points (TP’s) are defined as a “hyper-irritable spot within a taut band of skeletal muscle. The spot is painful on compression and can evoke characteristic referred pain and autonomic phenomena.”1
Put into plain language, a TP is a painful knot in muscle tissue that can refer pain to other areas of the body. You have probably felt the characteristic achy pain and stiffness that TP’s produce at some time in your life.