Trigger Point Therapy Prevents Knee and Calf Pain

Two new studies demonstrate the effectiveness of trigger point therapy for chronic calf and knee pain.

Myofascial trigger points (MTrPs) are hyperirritable spots of pain located in the taut bands of muscle fibers. Trigger point therapy is a treatment commonly used by chiropractors, massage therapists, and other manual therapists to alleviate pain. The practitioner uses gentle massage and stretching techniques to release tension and heal trigger points overtime. Some practitioners also use dry needling to treat trigger point points. Dry needling is similar to acupuncture, but targets trigger points rather than the traditional meridians accessed in acupuncture, and does not include other aspects of traditional Chinese medicine.

A new study tested the effects of MTrP dry needling on patients undergoing total knee replacements surgery. In a group of 40 patients with knee osteoarthritis, half were randomly assigned to receive MTrP dry needling prior to surgery while the other half had a placebo intervention. One month after the operation, the trigger point therapy group had significantly less pain compared to the placebo group. However there were no major differences between the groups at the three and six month follow-ups. Still, the findings show that a single session of MTrP dry needling prevented significant pain in the first month after surgery, which is considered the most painful time.

This adds to earlier research showing that targeting trigger points through acupressure/meridian therapy can improve symptoms in patients with knee osteoarthritis. Trigger point therapy can also be beneficial for people suffering from calf disorders, a new study suggests.

In the case study, mysofascial trigger point therapy without dry needling significantly reduced symptoms in patients with chronic calf pain. The case study included 10 patients with painful dysfunction in the triceps surae, or calf muscle. After being treated with trigger point pressure release and a home stretching program, all the patients experienced better range of motion in addition to substantial reductions in pain, number of trigger points, and pain sensitivity.

Taken together, these studies suggest that trigger point therapy can play a substantial role in the management of osteoarthritis and other conditions causing chronic calf and knee pain.


Grieve R, et al. Myofascial trigger point therapy for triceps surae dysfunction: A case series. Manual Therapy 2013; [E-pub ahead of print].

Orlando M, et al. Efficacy of myofascial trigger point dry needling in the prevention of pain after total knee arthroplasty: a randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative 2013; Article ID 69491.