Massage for Trigger Points Compared to Ultrasound

Trigger points are areas of muscles and that refer pain to other places. Some of the most common trigger points are in the trapezius muscle. The pain can radiate up towards the head, down the back, or over the shoulder. Muscle spasms and trigger points in this area produce chronic neck pain or headaches. Trigger point therapy is working the knots out of the muscle by increasing blood flow to the area. It also causes the muscle to relax. Ice, heat, electric, ultrasound, and massage therapy are forms of treatment that have been utilized to decrease trigger points in muscles.

The study looked to examine potential benefits and differences between trigger point therapy and ultrasound on trigger points in the trapezius muscle. Three groups were created. One received trigger point therapy. The second group received ultrasound on the trigger points. The third group was control group, which meant no real treatment was given.

The study showed improvement in both the trigger point and ultrasound group. Both groups showed decreased sensitivity of pain over the trigger points when a constant force was applied post treatment. There is also a decrease in muscle activity of the trapezius post treatment, which indicates less overall muscle spasms and guarding of the trapezius muscle. Cervical range of motion was measured pre-and post test. Trigger point therapy (IC) group show improvement in that criteria.

Trapezius muscle spasms are common in neck and upper back pain. In treatment we are always trying to find ways to decrease the muscle spasms that aggravate spinal complaints. Ischemic compression over trigger points is another treatment option in people with muscle spasms and trigger points.

Below is a summary abstract for this study. More information for therapeutic treatments utilizing Massage Therapy, Physical Therapy, and Chiropractic can be directed to Google+.

Immediate Effect of Ultrasound and Ischemic Compression Techniques for the Treatment of Trapezius Latent Myofascial Trigger Points in Healthy Subjects: A Randomized Controlled Study

F. Javier Montañez Aguilera, PT , Daniel Pecos Martín, PT, Rosana Arnau Masanet, MD, Ana Camps Botella, PT, Lorena Borja Soler, PT, Francisco Bosch Morell, PhD



The purpose of this study was to determine immediate effects of ischemic compression (IC) and ultrasound (US) for the treatment of myofascial trigger points (MTrPs) in the trapezius muscle.


Sixty-six volunteers, all CEU-Cardenal Herrera University, Valencia, Spain, personnel, participated in this study. Subjects were healthy individuals, diagnosed with latent MTrPs in the trapezius muscle. Subjects were randomly placed into 3 groups: G1, which received IC treatment for MTrPs; G2, which received US; and G3 (control), which received sham US. The following data were recorded before and after each treatment: active range of motion (AROM) of cervical rachis measured with a cervical range of motion instrument, basal electrical activity (BEA) of muscle trapezius measured with surface electromyography, and pressure tolerance of MTrP measured with visual analogue scale assessing local pain evoked by the application of 2.5 kg/cm2 of pressure using a pressure analog algometer.


The results showed an immediate decrease in BEA of the trapezius muscle and a reduction of MTrP sensitivity after treatment with both therapeutic modalities. In the case of IC, an improvement of AROM of cervical rachis was also been obtained.


In this group of participants, both treatments were shown to have an immediate effect on latent MTrPs. The results show a relation among AROM of cervical rachis, BEA of the trapezius muscle, and MTrP sensitivity of the trapezius muscle gaining short-term positive effects with use of IC.

© 2009 Published by Elsevier PubMed