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Trigger points are small sites of tight muscles. With myofascial pain syndrome (MPS), pressure on trigger points results in pain in other parts of the body.


The cause of MPS isn’t clear.

Trigger points causes are:

  • Injury, such as to discs in between the spinal bones
  • Muscle overuse
  • Emotional stress or tension

The trigger point can stay even after the cause of it has healed.

Risk Factors

MPS may be more common in women.


Here are some symptoms of MPS:

  • Muscle pain or weakness
  • Pain in parts of the body other than the trigger point
  • Problems moving
  • A feeling of pins and needles


You will be asked about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. The doctor will look for areas that are painful. The doctor may diagnose you based on your symptoms and whether you have trigger points.

Muscles of the Back
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Treatment will start by finding out what makes the pain worse. This can help your doctor or physical therapist build a plan to treat you.

Stop things that make your MPS worse. Muscle stretching and strengthening exercises will be used. They can help reduce tension in trigger points.

Other steps that may help are:

  • Cooling spray and ice before, during, or after activity
  • Dry needling or acupuncture—both techniques place needle into the trigger point. The needle may help loosen the site.
  • Massage therapy
  • Medicine injection—pain or anti-inflammatory medicine injected into the trigger point may help you feel better for a short time.
  • Medicine patch that has an anti-inflammatory medicine in it


Your workplace should be designed for ease of use and comfort. Ask about ergonomic support in your workplace. It can help reduce stress. Some examples are learning the right lifting techniques, improving your posture, and sitting the right way.


American Physical Therapy Association  http://www.apta.org 

Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians  http://www.familydoctor.org 


Canadian Physiotherapy Association  http://www.physiotherapy.ca 

Health Canada  https://www.canada.ca 


Myofascial pain syndrome: Cleveland Clinic website. Available at: http://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases%5Fconditions/hic%5FMyofascial%5FPain%5FSyndrome. Updated July 7, 2014. Accessed June 12, 2018.

Myofascial pain syndrome. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:  https://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114093/Myofascial-pain-syndrome  . Updated December 4, 2017. Accessed June 12, 2018.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Rimas Lukas, MD
  • Review Date: 05/2018
  • Update Date: 06/12/2018