trigger points

Trigger points; you’ve probably heard of it or maybe you’ve been treated for it. In the physiotherapy practice where I work, I treat patients who have complaints (received) daily through active trigger points. Chances are I will find them in you too, but that does not mean that you suffer from it or experience complaints. Trigger points have everyone, but they are not active with everyone.

What are the trigger points?

Trigger points are simply muscle knots; a thickening in a muscle. Those nodules or strands that you have probably felt in your trapezius (big neck muscle) for example, that are trigger points. When you press it, you experience (more) pain or perhaps radiating pain.

How do trigger points arise?

Trigger points are caused by overload and are actually very local cramps in muscles where due to a lack of circulation and oxygen a hypersensitive place arises. Your muscles are made up of separate muscle fibers, which can be relaxed and relaxed. When a continuous tightening of a muscle is requested (for example by (unconsciously) pulling up your shoulders, a wrong posture or stress) it becomes overloaded and there are muscle fibers that will continue to tighten. This creates a poor circulation, which means that waste products accumulate and start to stick together. When this process continues for a longer period of time, a trigger point is created which ultimately makes the entire muscle feel stiffer.


Each trigger point has a specific pain radiation area. This is often in a different area than the location of the trigger point itself. For example, muscles in the neck often cause headaches, and trigger points on the inside of the calf muscle can cause pain in the heel. Regularly patients look at me when I treat their buttocks when they have back problems. But as soon as I touch the trigger points, they often quickly understand why, because by touching the trigger points I raise the recognizable pain complaints.

Enough difficult sentences and words, because what can you actually do to prevent trigger points? And how are they actually caused?

Trigger points can arise from multiple factors. The most important causes are:

  • The repeated execution of the same movement
  • Long-term static tension (eg continuous walking with raised shoulders)
  • Wrong attitude
  • Stress
  • Physical characteristics (leg length difference, pelvic position, flat feet, etc.)
  • Sudden shocks, falls, and collisions

And then. Then you have a trigger point (or perhaps more) with radiating pain, what do you do about it? The primary goal is to relax the muscle fibers that continually tighten. This can be done in different ways, for example by stretching. By stretching the muscle you provide a temporary relaxation so that the muscle fibers will always let go slightly more.

You can also easily handle trigger points yourself through massage. For example with the help of a foam roller or a tennis ball. With a foam roller (with or without knobs) and/or tennis ball you can roll over the trigger point (s) to massage it. Of course, you can also look at your friend for a good massage😉

If this is not enough and you continue to have complaints, you can choose to go to a physiotherapist who specializes in treating trigger points. I often apply the Dry Needling technique myself. Here, trigger points are deactivated by inserting acupuncture needles.

The needle is placed exactly in the trigger point so that the local cramping condition is eliminated and local relaxation occurs. Thanks to this relaxation, the waste substances are released and then end up in the blood. That is why after a Dry Needling or trigger point treatment you often experience a languid, tired and sometimes fair feeling. Your body is actually busy removing the waste. And when you find the idea of needles in your body, the physiotherapist can also treat you with trigger point massage techniques.

Some tips to prevent trigger points from occurring:

  • Take care of your body after exercise, stretch regularly and use a foam roller or tennis ball to keep your muscles loose.
  • Provide enough relaxation! Take a moment each day for yourself in which you consciously relax all your muscles.
  • Pay attention to your posture throughout the day (yes, even if you are sitting on the couch); shoulders down, back straight, chin slightly retracted, chest forward. Banking is not bad, but do not stay in the same position for three hours.
  • Change posture regularly and move regularly. Are you at work at work every day? Also, use your non-dominant hand to operate the mouse. This way you avoid overload.


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