What is Trigger Point Massage?

what is trigger point massage

What is Trigger Point Massage?

Trigger Point Massage is effective treatment for releasing trigger points and reducing pain and muscle tension.

Trigger point massage is partly traditional massage and partly acupressure therapy.

Purpose of Trigger Point massage therapy is to ease myofascial pain by releasing the trigger point that is causing pain in the muscle.

What is a Trigger Point?

  • Trigger Points (TrP) are irritated points in muscles.
  • Trigger Points exist in soft tissues of the body: muscles, ligaments and skin.
  • A Trigger Point is locally sensitive to pressure.
  • Trigger Point keeps the muscle constantly under tension.

Myofascial Trigger Point is a knot in muscle tissue, where number of muscle fibers are permanently contracted. Generally trigger points are about size of a pea, but can also be as small as a head of a pin. Myofascial trigger points are the most common type of trigger points found in the body.

Most people have dozens of trigger points and they don’t normally affect the everyday life. Sometimes trigger points activate and cause pain.

What is Myofascial Pain?

Myofascial pain is pain that is caused by trigger points. It is constant and deep. It is usually stabbing and a little vague – it can be difficult to locate, but it is usually not very intense.

What Causes Trigger Points?

Trigger points can be formed in all muscles of the body. They can activate abruptly or form gradually in time. Common causes of activated trigger points are overstraining and over stretching the muscle, a static or repetitive muscular tension, exposure to cold and wet, as well as depression and sleep disorders.

The most common reason for trigger points is overstraining the muscle. Stress promotes the forming of trigger points. Trigger Point is the body’s last resort of stretching the muscle when all energy has been used. By tensing certain muscles the body is trying to protect damaged tissue. The reason for trigger points is not always traceable. Sometimes trigger points remain even though it is no longer necessary.

Posture errors and other structural defects, vitamins (B and C) and minerals deficiency, low thyroid hormone concentrations and blood sugar levels, psychological factors and chronic inflammation are the common causes for trigger point activation and prolongation of their recurrence.

If you have been exposed to the following factors, there is a possibility that you are suffering from activated trigger points:

  • Continuous straining of muscles
  • Poor ergonomics / posture errors
  • Stress
  • Muscle disturbances
  • Hypermobile joints

Trigger Points: Causes and Treatment Video by Jonathan Kuttner

Trigger points can occur at any age and in any muscle, and they can remain active or latent for many years or even a lifetime, if they are not properly treated.


Releasing Trigger Points with Trigger Point Massage

The best treatment for releasing trigger points is deep, local massage. Massage can be applied to treating almost all trigger points.

The massage to release trigger points should be reasonably intense. Unfortunately trigger point massage can be painful and might temporarily trigger or aggravate pain. Take notice that the massage might also cause bruises.

It is vital to find exact trigger point that is causing the pain. It’s not useful to massage the aching area itself if the trigger point is located somewhere else.

One muscle can have multiple trigger points and nearby muscles often have them too, it’s important to try to locate all of the trigger points.

Before it was recommended that trigger points are treated with continuous pressure (Ischemic compression), but active massage might prove to be more effective.

In Trigger Point Therapy the body is treated holistically by examining the potential rigidities in the joints, muscle tension, movement restrictions and other factors, which may affect the occurrence of a trigger point. It would always be useful to find out why a trigger point has activated so that the ailment won’t recur.


Basic Self-Massage Tips for Trigger Points

You can use hands, knees or elbows to massage trigger points. A simple tennis ball is a great massaging tool – see the instructional video below.

A suitable massage period is 30-60 seconds per point. The treatment should be done several times a day.

Some trigger points ease completely after just one session, others may require a few weeks of treatment.

You should keep few days off In between the treatments as the trigger points may become tender from the massage. It can be difficult to know whether localized tenderness is caused by the trigger point or by the treatment. After few days the pain caused by the trigger point should be alleviated.

Trigger Point Release with Balls Video by Ask Doctor Jo


Another great tool for trigger point massage is the Body Back Buddy Trigger Point Self-Massage Tool

Buy Body Back Buddy from Amazon.com

Massage isn’t the only way to treat trigger points. Other methods include Tens-therapy and Trigger Point injections.


Different Types of Trigger Points

There are two types of trigger points: active and latent.

Active trigger point causes aching pain usually further from the trigger point itself. In addition, active trigger points cause muscle weakness and limitation of range of motion. A trigger point in the glute might resemble pain similar to sciatica. Active trigger points in the neck and base of the skull can cause typical headache symptoms and even dizziness.

Latent Trigger Point causes muscle weakness and restriction of range of motion, but usually no pain / aches unless it’s activated. Painless stiffness can turn to pain if the muscle, where a latent trigger point is, is overstrained.


Trigger Points and Pain

  • Trigger points can occur from pain and cause pain itself.
  • As a general rule the pain you feel in a different place than where the trigger points are.
  • Active trigger points often cause acute and chronic pain.
  • Latent trigger points begin to show signs after physical or emotional stress.


What a Trigger Point Feels Like?

The trigger point in the muscle might feel tender when pressed and usually projects the pain to a different part of the body. The sensation might also be numbness or tingling instead of pain. It has been studied that the pain seems to reflect through meridians (http://www.massagereferences.com/articles/Techniques/Fascia.pdf)


How Trigger Points Affect the Body

In addition to pain trigger points can affect the body’s autonomic functions, such as blood circulation, digestion, excretion of sweat, balance and sight.  Trigger points may also cause wearing of joints as they affect the balance in synergistic muscles.

Muscle tension caused by trigger points can cause straining in other muscles and might cause new trigger points to form.

Trigger points can affect each and every function of the body through the nervous system, but this does not mean that every ailment or a disease is always the result of a trigger point.

However, if there are no indications of a serious injury or illness that would require immediate medical attention, you could always try trigger point massage therapy, it is cheap and safe treatment without any adverse side effects.
Natural relief from joint and muscle pain


  • Read more: How to get rid of trigger points
  • The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook: Your Self-Treatment Guide for Pain Relief – Buy from Amazon
  • Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: The Trigger Point Manual – Buy from Amazon


Trigger Point Massage is effective treatment for releasing trigger points and reducing pain and muscle tension.

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