TENS to treat trapezius muscle trigger points

The trapezius muscle contains trigger points (hyperirritable spots). Referred pain from these trigger points frequently cause patients to seek treatment.

Researchers at Anglo-European College of Chiropractic, in Bournemouth, UK, studied the immediate effect of electric point stimulation (TENS).

First, the details.

  • 60 participants with latent upper trapezius trigger points were assigned to a treatment group.
    • TENS
    • Detuned (inactive) electric point stimulator type of TENS
  • Pressure pain threshold at the trigger point, a rating scale for pain over the trigger point, and lateral cervical flexion (see photo) to the side opposite the trigger point.
  • Neither the patients nor researchers knew the treatment given — double blind.

And, the results.

  • There was no difference between treatments in the pressure pain threshold or in lateral cervical flexion.
  • There was a significant decrease in pain over the trigger point with the electric point stimulator vs placebo.

The bottom line?

The authors concluded, “Electric point stimulator type of TENS is superior to placebo only in reduction of pain for treating latent upper trapezius trigger points.”

10/9/11 12:59 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.