Have you ever felt a painful tightness that just won’t go away no matter how much you stretch? Even if the pain subsides or goes away temporarily, when it recurs you still feel a tender knot that’s always in the same area. This may be due to trigger points (TrPs). TrPs are tender nodules which can cause pain and are found in a taut band of muscle tissue. This taut band is formed from a small group of contracted muscle fibers which will make that region of your muscle feel hard and tender. TrPs are sensitive to pressure and movement. Pressing on a trigger point will cause pain.
TrPs can be classified as either active or latent. A latent TrP is one that causes pain when palpated, or pressed on, but not spontaneously while resting. An active TrP can cause spontaneous pain – either at rest, in use, or while being pressed. If there is enough stress – for example, from too much exercise, a latent TrP can transform into an active TrP.
The cause of TrPs is still being studied, however, there is speculation that the taut band appears in the muscle first without any tenderness or irritation. With additional stress, the hardened area becomes tender to the touch (a latent TrP), and finally, may progress to producing spontaneous pain as an active TrP. The initial hardness in a band of muscle fibers can be caused my multiple factors: injury, overstretching, or over-exercising.
TrPs can be a debilitating source of pain. They can cause weakness and lack of coordination in the muscles where they are found. Next blog, we will discuss common treatment options for trigger points.