A trigger point is a hyper-irritable spot usually within a taut band of skeletal muscle or its fascia that is painful on compression and can give rise to characteristic referred pain, tenderness and autonomic phenomena. Trigger points propagate themselves. Once one part of the muscle reaches a state of hyper-irritability, the body’s effort to compensate for this change results in more symptoms cropping up in related musculoskeletal systems. For example, a trigger point in the trapezius (or upper back) may result in pain that radiates up the neck and down, through the shoulder, into the arm. In turn, as the body attempts to adjust to this pain, these secondary areas become vulnerable to the development of their own trigger points. As well, the activity that led to the development of the first trigger point will cause further exacerbation unless the behavior is identified and altered. Stopping this progression requires treatment.
Trigger point therapy’s most basic treatment is focused compression. The trigger point is identified by probing with fingers or apparatus. The trigger point is a spot characterized by heightened discomfort in the patient and a noticeable hardness to the therapist. While the application of pressure on this spot causes the discomfort to become very clearly recognizable, it has the dual and counter-intuitive effect of feeling good at the same time.