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Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are any injury or pain in the body's muscles, ligaments, joints, nerves or tendon. In general, these are degenerative diseases, marked by inflammatory conditions, causing pain and restricting activity. Nearly any part of the body can be affected but the most commonly problematic musculoskeletal areas are the following:
- The upper or lower back
- The neck
- Arms, legs, feet or hands
Specific examples of musculoskeletal disorders include the following:
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Epicondylitis (tennis elbow)
Musculoskeletal disorders involve the body's soft tissues, and therefore there is usually no visible injury. Doctors generally assess conditions based on the patient's reporting of pain in a specific area of the body. Medically, musculoskeletal disorders result from biomechanical load, the force that the human body must exert in order to perform a task. Repeated biomechanical load, such as participation in sports, can result, or contribute to, musculoskeletal disorders.
Across the globe, musculoskeletal disorders are the second-leading cause of disability, and cost an estimated $125 billion each year. There are numerous causes of musculoskeletal disorder, ranging from mild sprains and muscle strains to more complicated injuries. Obesity increases the risk of developing some musculoskeletal disorders, especially in the lower back. The workplace is a leading area in which such injuries occur. The use of ergonomics is suggested to reduce the chance of injury on the job.
Currently, more than 23 million individuals in the United States have some form of musculoskeletal disorder. As the central cause of pain and disability in the working age population, musculoskeletal disorders represent a notable challenge for both patients and physicians. Although there are a host of musculoskeletal disorders that can develop, trigger points are often significant root causes of these problems. According to Alvarez and Rockwell (2002) trigger points are defined as "discrete, focal, hyperirritable spots located in a taut band of skeletal muscle. The spots are painful on compression and can produce referred pain, referred tenderness, motor dysfunction, and autonomic phenomena" (p. 653).
While the overwhelming number of individuals that will struggle with musculoskeletal disorders in their lifetime could serve as an impetus for investigation into the issue, this subject is of personal interest to athletes and trainers. Because trigger points can cause significant harm to the athlete, trainers must understand the risk, causes and potential treatments. Only by understanding these issues will it be possible for the professional trainer to help clients avoid this condition, when possible, and provide support if this problem arises.
With the realization that trigger points are of critical concern to both athletes and trainers, a critical review of trigger points is warranted. Utilizing this as a springboard for investigation, this research considers what has been noted about the development of trigger points, the types of trigger points, the threat posed by trigger points and treatments and interventions to reduce the pain associated with this condition. Through a careful review of what has been noted about this condition it will be possible to provide a more integral understanding of trigger points and their impact on the professional athlete.