Acupuncture for Tight Muscles & Trigger Points

Acupuncture for Tight Muscles & Trigger Points


Muscles can get tight for a :

- Poor posture, being in one position for too long (like sitting), repetitive motion, or overuse.
- Lack of hydration and nutrients.
- Small tears in the muscle from overexertion or acute injury.
- Chronic stress and an overactive sympathetic nervous system
- Systemic inflammation from autoimmune disorders
- Side effects of medication


When a muscle is tight, it forms knots or hyperirritable bands of muscle fibers.  A tight muscle pulls on the bones or structures it attaches to.  The tightness also causes restricted blood flow and decreased range of motion to the muscle affected. 

When the hyperirritable band of muscle causes a predictable referral pattern, it is called a myofascial trigger point.  This can cause pain in the area of the tight muscle, or in other areas that may seem unrelated.   

Here is an example of the infraspinatus trigger point pattern.  The red dots indicate where knots or trigger points tend to form and the shaded green area shows possible referall patterns.  A trigger point in this muscle can cause pain medial to the shoulder blade, on the posterior shoulder, or even down the arm.


Acupuncture has been used for pain and tight muscles for many centuries.  Pain is the most common reason people seek out an acupuncture treatment. 

There are many styles of acupuncture and the trigger point style of acupuncture falls under the Acupuncture Physical Medicine (APM) style pioneered by Dr. Mark Seem in the 1980's.  This style of acupuncture is especially effective for chronic muscle tightness and pain.

Acupuncture treatments for tight muscles and trigger points in the APM style often include traditional Chinese acupuncture points coupled with local trigger point release. Electroacupuncture, cupping, gua sha, external herbal liniments, and internal Chinese herbs can also be used during treatment if needed.

This trigger point release works by releasing the tight band of muscle or trigger point by needling into it an causing the muscle to contract involuntarily.  This leads to a release of the muscle tightness and a restoration of more normal function and range of motion.  There can be muscle soreness in the area for a day or two following treatment that feels like delayed onset muscle soreness after exercise.  

Besides getting acupuncture, it is important to identify the lifestyle issues that may have led to the muscle tightness or trigger point formation otherwise they may reappear.  

Have you tried acupuncture yet for your muscle pain and tightness?