What Causes Trigger Points?

Understanding what causes trigger points is the first step to turning them off. The short movie below explains one of the most common causes of muscle pain: myofascial trigger points.

Most people have them, most people don’t know what they are or how to treat them. Watch the video to learn what is a trigger point, and how they work.

To find out how to treat trigger points safely and accurately – check out the Trigger Point Course here.

Trigger points are a common cause of pain in people. Most people will have trigger point pain at some stage in their life andsome will suffer long term.

Trigger point pain can be quite severe and incapacitating, so it’s important to know what they are, and how to treat them.

The basis of trigger points is a reflex arc. In parallel to a normal muscle cell is a muscle spindle fiber. There are millions of them scattered throughout the body – nerves created in a spiral. They send messages along the sensory nerve to the spinal cord.

The muscle spindle sends a message in a loop to the muscle cells. It’s a quick, simple reflex arc, there are millions of these scattered throughout your body, and they support you doing all the amazingly complex things like sitting, standing and walking.

The problem occurs when this little arc starts malfunctioning. This is when it sets up a trigger point. The spindle starts firing and the muscle develops a small area of spasm.

This small area of spasm inside the muscle is a trigger point complex. This complex pulls a tight band within the muscle.

Within this tight band is the trigger point. This trigger then sets off a pain pattern which is specific to each particular point.

There are examples all over your body. Trigger points may cause pain in your face, in your head, in your neck, in your back, in your abdomen, in your chest, buttocks, and down your legs.

In other words you may have pains arising from trigger points anywhere in your body. In summary, trigger points are the basis of chronic muscle pain. They are caused by a muscle reflex which misfires. They can be treated successfully, particularly when you uncover the underlying cause of the trigger point.

prabu.T March 1, 2010

Dear Sir,
Sharing Your Knowledge and helping people by means of this is impressive.God bless you.


    Robert September 6, 2014

    Thank You Dr. Jonathan,

    Your videos are life changing & has already helped myself in many ways..God Bless your kind love & research for a better life for all.

[…] This starts a vicious cycle. You do less because of the pain, so you lose physical fitness. When this happens, your muscles lose power and keeping your balance is harder. This is bad news – weaker muscles cause instability which then increases myofascial trigger points. […]

[…] They form tight bands in the muscle, and these are called trigger points. […]

Chrissy Brannan September 15, 2010

I love your informatio. It is great layman terminology mixed in with great information everyone can use! Keep up the great work! I’ll keep sharing it with others!

Chrissy Brannan, LMT
College Station, TX.

[…] What’s a trigger point? Not sure – find out here. […]

Brian Shelley April 20, 2011

Hello Jonathan

Finding your site has been a lifesaver for me. At the age of 65 I have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s, Fibromyalgia & Arthritis. All this I have been able to handle except for constant pain in my shoulders, neck, upper back & lower back which at times almost cripples me. At a get-together with friends a while ago a young friend of mine came up behind me & started massaging my shoulders & neck. She found all the trigger points in the area & gradually worked them away. I was stiff that night but next morning I was in heaven. All the pain had gone! I felt almost liberated. I started doing research on trigger points & finally came across your amazing site.
You show & explain everything in such a way that is really easy to understand and follow. For a couple of months I was doing really well . Almost felt like a human being again. Last few weeks have been very hectic & I have slipped back to the way I was previously but fully intend getting back on track again. I just want to say how grateful I am for the free stuff that you have made available on your website that has allowed me to take steps in order to take care of myself.
I am now on pension & have a very meagre income but I have a cousin in Upper Hutt near Wellington who has very kindly bought me a return ticket as a retirement gift so that I may visit them. I will be in New Zealand from May 3rd to June 10th, 2011 & I was wondering whether I could make an appointment to see you personally. If you are able to see me please advise what the fee would be. It would be great to thank you personally & to learn a bit more from you so that hopefully I might be able to enjoy an active pension.


Brian Shelley

Gloria November 2, 2011

Thank you for another great explanation of what I do when I massage my clients. They often ask me about trigger points, and you have helped me to be able to explain to them much easier now…thank you so much.

Danny Ellerton March 20, 2012

Being a Bowen therapist, I have just completed an additional nine days intense Bowen therapy training combining Trigger Point assessment with Bowen therapy and found the combination of the two has made treatments to clients so much more rewarding, with clients just astounded at the complete turnaround with just one treatment.
Your Trigger Point mapping has made assessments so much easier.
I look forward, along with my clients, to using your website more frequently.

BRYAN March 21, 2012

Hello Mr. Kuttner This is so amazing I took a chance with what you explained and I am pleased to tell you that it is a wonderful experience to try things Ithank you and look forward for more of your lessons. God Bless…

[…] Here’s a short video how explaining trigger points work. […]

Silvana April 2, 2012

Hello, I’m a physiotherapy student from Brazil and tomorrow I have a test about trigger points. All your explanation and your free trigger point manual are helping me a lot!!! Thanks for sharing your knowledge.
Best Regards.

[…] Trigger points within the muscles that are responsible in controlling the TMJ joint may cause painful sensations within the mouth, jaw and teeth. TMJ means the word Temporomandibular joint. This joint is seen as ‘hinge’ from the jaw joint – an extremely complex joint which has distinct qualities unlike every other joint in your body. […]

Katrena August 29, 2012

Dr. Kuttner, I have been having chronic pain in 2 places for years now. I’m in sales and drive alot. 2 different things have been happening, I have chronic right scapula trigger point pain and right leg pain. Your videos and information has been very helpful! I’ve had the scapula dull achy pain for about 9 years. I will try to change my posture with that. But, I am curious though now about my leg pain. It started on the side of my lower right driving leg at the top right trigger point near the knee. Now, it has traveled, the pain, up my thigh. Is that trigger point in my gluteus? Massage has seemed to help relieve the trigger point in my scapula muscles, but the chronic leg triggers, well, keeps coming back. Please advise. Thanks!


yanie November 13, 2012

Dear sir,
I am a martial art taekwondo student.Lately, i am having pain at my back somewhere at the trapezins, rhomboideus, teres major muscles. This pain have been caring on for more than 6month. I did see the doctor but the pain is still there. Now i have to stop my taekwondo training as a fighter and can’t involve in any sparring championship due to the pain. I need your help and hope you can help me to cure it by Trigger Point Treatment.

Wendy schweitzer November 30, 2012

What do you suggest for cervicogenic headaches. I take flexeril and curamin. Please tell me they ll go away, I go to pt and am headache free for months at a time. Then I can’t understand why they come back, sometimes bad. Have a blushing disk and some kyphosis. Also 5 hr a day desk job. Help!!!!

angela gisela February 6, 2013

I’m so glad I found this site. I’m a massage therapist and the info here helps me with explanations to my clients. Thank you

Greg Decker April 25, 2013

Hi Dr. Kuttner,
I really appreciate your information.
I seem to have active trigger points all over my body and have been treating them as you advise. I haven’t been able to get rid of them but the therapy helps to keep the pain manageable.
My question relate to statin drugs I was taking for high Cholesterol (Lipitor). I know one of the side effects is muscle pain and was wondering if there is any connection between this muscle pain from Statin drugs and trigger points.
I have since stopped the statin drugs with the hopes that the muscle pain will dissipate.
Thank you!

    Jonathan May 2, 2013

    Hi Greg,

    Statin drugs are used for lowering cholesterol. At present they are the most effective group of medications for this. When they first came out there was a very rare and catastrophic side effect called Rhabdolmyolysis which is that the muscle literally liquifies. The waste products produced by this damage are so acute that they clog the kidneys and push the body into renal failure. This occurs rarely, but was obviously caused by the statins.

    However, what has become recognised since then is that this is just the end point of a continuum and that a much higher proportion of people taking statins have mild to significant muscle pains. Once you stopped the statin, it takes 4-6 weeks before you can assess how much of your pain was from the statin. It’s important to recognise that high cholesterol is one of the risk factors for heart disease and strokes, and therefore you need to do this under the supervision of your doctor.

    If your pains get significantly better, there are other options that you can take to keep your cholesterol down – however I believe the most significant thing you can do is change your diet to a heart healthy diet.

Maurice Manley June 29, 2013

I think my pain is little less.

nargis February 9, 2014

Does this apply to Rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and any kind of arthritis?

There are so many causes of back pain, that it’s hard
to find a cure- all for it. They can not only be affected
at the spinal level of origin, but also peripherally, at their destination, back to
the spine. Heavy lifting is one of the most common causes of
muscle strain or sprain of back muscles.

Robert Max Barrett September 6, 2014

Thank You

David Caracappa November 19, 2014

excellent information

Tito December 24, 2014

thank you for the goodness in spreading your knowledge, seems to be a mission for you and I really appreciate it. This should belongs to all doctors wherever they are, (I’m from Italy). I’m a 15 year experienced personal trainer and I workout since 30, so I know how to treat my recurrent muscle and osteoarticular troubles. I do the same with my clients. Time after time I started to understand how to treat our body very gently, with the right movements the right breathing, trying to recreate the right body balance. Now listen this from you make me understand one more time I’m on the right way. Resolving little contractures or backpain come easily if I can teach to the patient how to relax and how to face the pain. So thank you again for all.


Irina Conte Jon Budde January 25, 2015

Thank you

SR PRISCA TABO April 26, 2015

You have very good videos and it is difficult to get them and the books too is it possible to send some to Cameroon for us through the book shops here so that we can get the you have helped us to save the lives of many people here but need more knowledge by reading these books to increase our knowledge so as to continue with what you are teaching us .May GOD WHO GAVE THIS KNOWLEDGE BLESS AND REWARD YOU FOR US THANKS FOR ALL .SR PRISCA TABO

Dolly Hodgins July 25, 2019

Thank you Jonathan….your advice and knowledge are amazing…

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