A trigger point is a knot or bundle of stiff spine muscle tissue that you can’t move or relax, and when touched pain spreads to the neck, shoulders, and upper back.
Pretty much everyone can relate to this type of pain in the neck or what is known as myofascial pain syndrome when several of these trigger points are grouped.
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Trigger points can form in muscles all over the body. Myofascial pain syndrome in the neck happens when trigger points develop in the muscles of the shoulders, upper back, and neck.
Trigger points have a unique connection to America. They were first identified in the 1940s by Janet Travell, MD, who was John F. Kennedy’s doctor. JFK had severe chronic back pain and had trigger point injections to ease the pain.
A trigger point is a sensitive area within the muscles. They are typically described as knots and feel like a bundle of tense, contracted muscles that twitch and spread pain when touched. The spreading pain is known as referred pain. Example: Trigger points in the shoulder send pain into the neck.
Trigger points cause muscles to stress and to contract. This results in:
They are usually caused by mechanical factors (factors that strain or stress the muscles). Spinal trauma, like whiplash from an automobile accident or sports-related injury, can create trigger points.
They also develop through repetitive actions and routine everyday chores that can hurt the spine over time.
Straining the neck muscles from poor posture for extended times like craning the neck while working on a computer, carrying a heavy bag that stresses the muscles of the neck, upper back, and shoulders.
Trigger points do get confused with tender points of fibromyalgia. Trigger points and tender points are both defined as local areas of pain but are not the same.
But it can become complicated because individuals with fibromyalgia can have both tender points and trigger points. People with fibromyalgia can also have myofascial pain syndrome.
Trigger points are a regular cause of different types of spine pain, that can range from neck pain to low back pain. However, doctors are still trying to understand how trigger points produce referred pain. This is why diagnosing trigger points can be difficult for doctors.
They are complex because they are easy to pinpoint but difficult to diagnose. As they can directly cause muscle pain but they can mimic other pain making conditions exactly the way Myofascial pain and fibromyalgia get confused.
These types of pain that do not go away could be caused by trigger point/s in the neck.
Individuals with chronic neck pain that don’t seem to have a cause, could be trigger points. A doctor will refer you to a physical therapist, chiropractor or another spine specialist to conduct an examination for trigger points.
Treatment can range from home remedies, chiropractic care, physical therapy and if severe muscle injections. There is no one treatment that works, as everyone and their injuries are different, meaning that various treatment options need to be looked into.
Before starting any home therapy, discuss it with a trained professional like a doctor, chiropractor, massage therapist, or physical therapist to identify the location of the trigger point to effectively treat it.
Treated with massaging the area but can be tough with hard-to-reach places in the upper back. If unable to reach the point slowly and gently roll over a foam roller, golf or tennis ball for quick relief.
Massage therapists are trained in relieving muscle pain. Deep tissue massage can relieve an irritated area. Regular massage sessions can reduce pain and prevent the points from reemerging.
Physical therapy treats trigger points in different ways, this includes:
Muscle relaxants can be used to reduce the symptoms and relieve pain. However, these meds can have all kinds of side effects, and become habit-forming, so use should be limited and in conjunction with a proper chiropractic/physical therapy treatment plan.
If the pain continues despite the non-surgical treatments or worsens, then your doctor could recommend trigger point injections. Injections are late-stage therapy. Doctors want to avoid patients becoming dependant on injections and will prescribe injections with an exercise, chiropractic/physical therapy program for maximum relief and effectiveness.
The majority of people have felt tight muscles around the neck. Utilizing proper posture and healthy spinal mechanics can prevent trigger points and myofascial pain syndrome.
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Many people who have trigger points or myofascial pain syndrome in their spine have knots and tightness throughout their back and neck. To prevent myofascial pain syndrome one needs to practice a healthy lifestyle that promotes good spine health. Stretching and exercising regularly can help keep stress under control and prevent tension from building up, which makes it harder for trigger points to activate and cause pain.
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