Trigger Points

Taken from Taber’s Medical Dictionary a trigger point or trigger zone is “an area of tissue that is tender when compressed and may give rise to referred pain and tenderness”. An active trigger point is ” A trigger point that is painful when the involved muscle is at rest.

Palpation will reproduce the patient’s symptoms”. Latent trigger points are ” Trigger points that are not symptomatic when the involved muscle is at rest, but produce pain during palpation. Range of motion and strength may also be affected.”

What causes a trigger point? Trigger points are generally caused by over use of the muscle, trauma to the local muscle cells, and or increased muscle cell metabolism combined with reduced metabolic waste uptake by the vascular system or all of the above in combination. Trigger points have also been found to be active on bones and viscera.

Identifying trigger points in the horse or dog is done through palpation of the tissues. The tissue that contains the trigger point will be hardened and there will be a taut band

of fibre present. Sometimes this hardened tissue is identified as a knot but muscles can not be tied in knots so a more accurate description would be an area of hardened or swollen tissue that may be hotter than the surrounding tissue though if chronic could be cold.

The spot might also seem to pulsate and when touched if it is active it will cause pain in the animal which can be identified by the horse or dog pulling away from the pressure, an increase in alertness as we approach the area and the animal will look back at us intensely, in horses the reaction may be ears back, moving away or kicking. In a dog some reactions would be by whimpering, growling, and the dog might move away from us at this point or start to lick the area insistently. We should always approach a painful area on the animal with gentleness and caution so we don’t hurt the animal or get hurt by them.


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