Trigger Point Treatment for Tight Muscles and Neck Pain

Updated on May 23, 2020
Donna Steiner profile image

As a young adult, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Today I am healthy and active again.

Here is the X-ray of my jaw with the huge gap on one side from the dentist removing my wisdom teeth
Here is the X-ray of my jaw with the huge gap on one side from the dentist removing my wisdom teeth

I use The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook by Clair Davies for relief of muscle pain and tightness. Trigger points are another term for muscle knots. Myofascial pain is another term used. Fibromyalgia and trigger points appear to be interrelated based on my experience.

This is a self-treatment guide that may literally save you thousands of dollars on massage, osteopaths and chiropractors. It is useful for the relief of soft tissue muscle pain. I use this book frequently.

Why I Love The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook

It is very helpful in that you can quickly look up where you are experiencing pain and it lists the muscles that can cause pain in that area. The list of muscles causing pain is in order of most likely to least likely to cause pain. There are detailed diagrams of the muscle types, location of trigger points, and areas where the pain is referred to.

Muscle pain may be related to an apparently unconnected area. You may have been unknowingly rubbing a sore spot on arm with no benefit but can get relief quickly by massaging a muscle knot in your shoulder for example. There is a section on each muscle group detailing a case study or example, typical symptoms, causes, and treatment.

I also found the information about temporomandibular joint or jaw (TMJ) pain useful for fibromyalgia since my jaw used to click and feel out of alignment. My teeth on my bottom jaw did not meet my teeth on my top jaw. I have been hit in the jaw by a horse previously. My x-ray showed a larger gap between the teeth on one side than the other. this was probably from having wisdom teeth out a few years before. It's amazing what you will put up with if you don't know what to do about it.

Typically if your head is sore you need to look further down the body to the neck and shoulders. Tight hamstring muscles can make your posture bad and affect your muscles higher up.

My neck was pushed forward abnormally and held with the neck vertebrae very straight up as shown by my x-ray. I saw an osteopath for correction of this, but this was unsuccessful since they generally only focused on the affected area and didn't look at neck and shoulder tension as well. I ended up using a massage of the relevant trigger points to correct this.

How to Use This Therapy

An example is a migraine headache. Migraine headaches can be caused by stress, resulting in tight shoulder muscles. This is typically caused by the trapezius and suboccipital muscles being tight. The trapezius muscle trigger point #1 is on the triangle between the neck and shoulder and gives referred pain to the side of the face corner of the jaw and side of the neck.

Other trapezius trigger points also extend down the back around the shoulder blade and can trigger headaches. The suboccipital muscles are at the base of the skull and give referred pain around the side of the head. The trapezius muscles can make the suboccipital muscles tight.

Trigger points or muscle knots are sore spots along the muscle fibres that must be worked to release the muscle fibres. You will know if you have found a trigger point if it hurts. The recommended way to massage trigger points are:

  1. Use a tool such as a rubber bouncing ball or Thera Cane to massage and save your hands.
  2. Use a deep stroking massage, do not just press the spot.
  3. Massage with short repeated strokes.
  4. Massage in one direction only.
  5. Do the massage stroke slowly.
  6. Aim for a pain level or seven on a scale of one to ten.
  7. Limit massage to six to twelve strokes per trigger point.
  8. Work a trigger point three to six times per day.
  9. If it doesn't work you may be massaging the wrong spot.

Relief of muscle pain can be very quick. If an area has been tight for a long time, it may be difficult to get rid of and require multiple applications over a number of days.

I find the best way to save your hands is to massage trigger points using rubber bouncing balls ranging in size from one inch to three inches wide.

  • Use the smaller balls on your neck and legs and the larger balls on your back.
  • Use the flat of your hand to move the rubber balls in a circular motion or straight motion to work the muscle knots.
  • You can massage your back and bottom by placing the larger balls between you and a wall or floor. I personally prefer to use the floor.

Once you have found the correct trigger points and dealt with them, you will also need to prevent them from coming back by treating the cause. A correct diet to avoid reactive hypoglycemia is important.

You will also need to look at your posture and avoid repetitive moments where possible. Break up housework in small lots. Minimise time spent with your arms stretched out in front of you. High heels, gumboots and jandals make your leg muscles tight and can affect your posture, minimise use if possible.

My Recommendation for Complementative Therapy

Please use it in conjunction with the Structural Yoga Therapy book by Mukunda Stiles. Make sure you assess your postural alignment, particularly your back alignment as this can have a huge effect on muscle tension.

I discovered I had a swayback posture meant that I had an excessive lumbar curve. The swayback posture affects the thighs, hips, abdominals and neck. This posture made my neck very straight and the muscles tight.

See the side profile photo of my neck below. The yoga poses called upward legs, reclining hero and boat worked well for correcting my sway back.

Here is the photo of my neck showing how straight it was from tight muscles.  Normally the neck is curved.
Here is the photo of my neck showing how straight it was from tight muscles. Normally the neck is curved.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

Please give me feed back and let me know how you get on

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      5 years ago

      Hey ... by the looks of your jaw x-ray .. you can see that your Atlas (your top vertebra) is slightly out of alignment. This would cause your straight neck and jaw to be opening the way that it does. Look up NUCCA if you can, this will help you!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Thanks bro! this was really helpful. I learned so much more about my body and how to heal it! gonna check out the book :)


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