trigger point diagram

Trigger Point therapy - neck pain

trigger point diagram

Trigger Point Therapy is nowadays one of the most effectives techniques for the relief of musculoskeletal pain. It’s used by manual therapists all over the world.


Trigger Point therapy usually has a clinical intention, meaning that the therapist has a clinical goal and is aiming either to treat pain, gain range of motion or relieve any other symptom resulting from Trigger Points.


Let’s explain what a Trigger Point is.


Trigger Points are painful or tender spots within a taut band of muscle fibers that develop when a certain part is stuck in contraction (see contracted muscle on the picture above) and is unable to go back to the relaxed state. 

Trigger Point work was originally discovered and developed by American physician Dr. Janet Travell (see picture). She treated Trigger Points through dry needling.


Travell realised that Trigger points had a predictable pain pattern, meaning that Trigger points in a certain muscle would always cause pain and symptoms in the same area or areas in all of her patients.


She then decided to document each muscle with their trigger point pain patterns giving us something of incalculable value.


Thanks to these maps, we can now identify, track down and treat the origin problem area based on where the pain is felt.

There are many reasons why Trigger Points develop. Some of the most common are, repetitive load, tissue dehydration, diet, postural imbalances and stress.


Trigger Points are released during a clinical massage session by applying steady pressure over them during a short period of time, usually between 8-12 seconds.


This pressure triggers a chain reaction that causes the stuck fibres to let go of contraction and go back to their relaxed state. The pain and other symptoms then subside as well.

In case of the neck, due to its anatomical characteristics this part of the body is very vulnerable to developing Trigger points.


Per every inch of a forward neck posture, we add 10 Pounds of weight to the area. The neck is not designed to carry weight, that’s not its function, its function is being as mobile and flexible as possible.


Trigger points in the neck muscles tend to cause a lot of trouble probably due to its proximity to the head as well as being an area with lots of main nerves and veins.


Trigger points in the neck cause pain and other symptoms that travel upwards into the head, face and jaw. Some of these other symptoms are dizziness, headaches or migraines, tmjd, lack of sleep, blurred vision, tinnitus, nausea, etc.


Let’s go through a couple of examples.


Some important muscles of the neck in this reward are the suboccipitals. These tiny and ropy muscles that live at the base of the scalp usually host trigger points in most people. They can cause a lot of trouble and discomfort triggering migraines and tmjd.


We find another major neck muscle in this reward at the front of the neck. The SCM or sternicleidomastoid muscle, usually stuck in a shortened position. This muscle can trigger tinnitus or ear ringing, ear pain and headaches or migraines. It plays a major role in tmjd symptoms





Closing this short overview of trigger point therapy, an important note, once trigger points are released it is important to correct when and as possible the cause for their development.


In case of the neck, it is important to correct forward head postural imbalances, which will mean addressing the whole system.


For example, if we are stuck in a kyphotic position, or a posterior or anterior pelvic tilt these must be corrected or the trigger points in the neck will reoccur.


We correct postural imbalances with strength based exercises that respect the natural function of our body.