Myofascial Pain Syndrome and Trigger Points

Myofascial Trigger Points – What are they?

The term trigger point was defined in 1942 by Dr. Janet Travell as muscle pain with the following characteristics:

  • Pain related to a discrete, irritable point in skeletal muscle, not caused by inflammation, neoplasia (tumor), or infection.
  • The painful point could be palpated as a nodule in a taut band within the muscle.
  • Trigger points are tender when touched and can be associated with referred pain and a local twitch response.

Cause of Myofascial Trigger Points:

  • Acute overuse
  • Direct trauma
  • Low level muscle contractions (postural changes, usually to compensate for arthritis or joint injury)
  • Overuse of  unconditioned muscles
  • Prolonged immobility (such as when a limb has been splinted or cast)

Typical Patient

Because myofascial trigger points have so many causes, they can occur in any dog.  They are most commonly seen in:

  • Sporting dogs, such as dogs that compete in herding or hunting trials, dock diving, agility, etc., due to overuse.
  • Dogs with orthopedic or neurologic injury, due to compensation for the injury and changes in posture.
  • Older dogs with arthritis, due to change in posture.


  • Compression – pressure is applied to the trigger point, slowly and progressively, until the twitch resolves and the tension in the trigger point subsides.
  • Laser – Laser increases blood flow to the muscle.  This allows for decreased pain and improved mobility.
  • Dry needling – an acupuncture needle is used to explore the trigger point until there is an involuntary twitch.  That twitch releases the trigger point.  Dry needling is the most effective treatment but is also the most invasive.


Comments are closed