How do Trigger Points Lead to Neck Pain?
A trigger point is a tight knot in muscle tissue that can cause pain. We explain how these knots develop in your neck, review options you can try at home to relieve soreness, and tell you when neck pain should trigger a call to your doctor.
Neck pain is a common problem. It will affect seven out of 10 people at some point in their lives, and one in 10 adults has a stiff, painful neck right now. Usually, soreness fades after a day or two of rest. However, when pain recurs at the same location in your neck, shoulders, or back, it may be a symptom of trigger points: tight knots of muscle fiber that can’t relax.
Causes of trigger points
The causes of trigger points include strain, injury to muscle fibers, repetitive motion, or immobilization that results in lack of muscle activity for a period of time. Perhaps you spent hours at the computer working intensely to complete a rush project—and paid more attention to your deadline than to your posture. A sling supporting a broken arm may hold muscle in one position and prevent healthy movement. Spring weather might tempt you to lose track of time working a bit too vigorously in your garden.
When you stress your muscles, soreness may increase gradually during activity, or you could wake up with a twinge of tight pain that wasn’t there before. What you are feeling may be a trigger point: a tight knot of muscle tissue that makes movement painful.
Is it a trigger point?
Trigger points have symptoms that you may be able to evaluate at home.
- Most trigger points around the neck, shoulders, and upper back develop in the large diamond-shaped trapezius muscle that extends from the base of the skull down the center of the spine to the middle of the back, and above the shoulder blades along the top of your shoulders. If your pain is located in trapezius muscle tissue, it could be caused by a trigger point.
- Check for one of more spots of muscle that feel more dense and taut than the surrounding tissue.
- Press your finger into the knot of muscle. If pressure causes the pain to spread, a trigger point may be your problem.
Trigger point treatment and self-care tips
Summit Orthopedics is home to the area’s top spine specialists for trigger point treatment. You can use massage, anti-inflammatories, and heat or ice at home to try to ease and release these muscle knots. If your pain doesn’t resolve, Summit Orthopedics neck and back specialists have the expertise to evaluate your discomfort and develop a plan to provide pain relief and help you reclaim your range of motion.
More resources for you
Meet the Expert: Doctor Bio Video Series
Dr. Mundrati’s advice to help patients manage back pain—and keep it from recurring.
Dr. Choi helps chronic pain sufferers understand the link between stress and back pain.