Review of enigmatic MTrPs as a common cause of enigmatic musculoskeletal pain and dysfunction

J Electromyogr Kinesiol. 2004 Feb;14(1):95-107. doi: 10.1016/j.jelekin.2003.09.018.


This article explores how myofascial trigger points (MTrPs) may relate to musculoskeletal dysfunction (MSD) in the workplace and what might be done about it. The cause of much MSD and pain is often enigmatic to modern medicine and very costly, just as the cause of MTrPs has been elusive for the past century, despite an extensive literature that is confusing because of restricted regional approaches and a seemingly endless variety of names. MTrPs are activated by acute or persistent muscle overload, which is characteristic of MSD in the workplace. MTrPs can involve any, and sometimes many, of the skeletal muscles in the body and are a major, complex cause of musculoskeletal pain. The clinical and etiological characteristics of MTrPs have been underexplored by investigators, leading to undertraining of health care professionals, underappreciation of their clinical importance. MTrPs have no gold standard diagnostic criterion, and no routinely available laboratory or imaging test. MTrPs require a specific non-routine examination and muscle-specific treatment for prompt relief when acute, and also resolution of perpetuating factors when chronic. After identifying a critical false assumption, electrodiagnostic studies are now making encouraging progress toward clarifying the etiology of MTrPs based on the 5- or 6-step positive-feedback model of the integrated hypothesis. Specific research needs are noted. MTrPs are treatable and they deserve increased attention and consideration by research investigators and clinicians.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / etiology
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Myofascial Pain Syndromes / etiology
  • Myofascial Pain Syndromes / physiopathology*
  • Myofascial Pain Syndromes / therapy
  • Pain / etiology
  • Pain / physiopathology*