21 Nov Trigger Points: What They Are and What They Tell Us
From time to time, patients might hear Lone Star pain doctors talk about trigger point injections or trigger points in the shoulder and neck. But just what are these trigger points? And more importantly, what do they tell us? You are about to find out.
When doctors first examine patients complaining of shoulder and neck pain, they tend to take a close look at trigger points. If trigger points can be located, these give the doctor a clue as to what might be going on. The thing to understand about trigger points is that they aren’t arbitrary. They are known points that, in most cases, produce consistent results when manipulated.
Muscle and Connective Tissue Points
The simplest way to explain trigger points is to describe them as small, well-defined areas of muscle or connective tissue that produce sensations of pain when compressed. Let’s say you have a trigger point in your shoulder. You will feel pain if you press on it. In some cases, trigger points are so sensitive that the slightest touch can generate pain.
Also note that pressing a trigger point can create what is known as referred pain. This is pain that radiates out from the site itself. We see this most often with trigger points in the lower spine. Pain can radiate down the lower back, into the hips, and even down into the buttocks and upper thighs.
There is a condition related to trigger points known as myofascial pain syndrome. In simple terms, myofascial pain syndrome manifests itself as numerous trigger points creating persistent and uncomfortable pain.
Trigger Points as a Diagnostic Tool
Trigger points are an effective diagnostic tool at the hand of an experienced clinician. Myofascial pain syndrome is a good example. Our pain doctors are very familiar with this condition. They know how to test trigger points to make a diagnosis.
Another common example is fibromyalgia. Although there are exceptions to the rule, most fibromyalgia patients share a common set of trigger points that are easily manipulated by a clinician who knows what to look for. Two decades ago, trigger points were the only means of diagnosing what was then known as fibromyalgia syndrome.
In short, trigger points help doctors gain a better understanding of what is causing a patient’s pain. But don’t think that identifying trigger points is flawless. The practice has its strengths and weaknesses. It is just one tool pain doctors utilize to get to the root of a patient’s discomfort.
When Pain Is Nonspecific
The nature of pain is such that its source is not always identifiable. When doctors cannot figure out why a person is experiencing pain, the pain may be considered nonspecific. Enter a comparatively new treatment known as trigger point therapy. It is a therapy doctors may employ if they can locate numerous trigger points but can’t find any physiological reason that should induce pain.
Trigger point therapy mainly involves robbing and pressing trigger points similar to the way a massage therapist rubs and presses muscles. It is a therapy that can offer significant relief to some patients. But like any therapy, it doesn’t always work for everyone.
Now you know the basics of trigger points and what they tell us as doctors. We would invite you to make an appointment at our Weatherford, TX pain clinic if you are experiencing any sort of lingering pain that’s disrupting your life. If that pain is associated with trigger points, identifying the trigger points could be the key to figuring out what is causing your discomfort. If we can figure it out, we can offer a means of relief.