Tender Point VS Trigger Point, What is The Difference?

Tender points are known to fibromyalgia patients and they are crucial in diagnosing fibromyalgia. Tender points are frequently confused with trigger points. The two terms are sometimes used interchangeably, however, they are not the same in nature, treatment and role in the fibromyalgia.

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The confusion between the two terms possibly surfaced because it is utterly common for people with fibromyalgia to have both trigger points and tender points concurrently. Furthermore, treating trigger points can also improve health-related quality of life for fibromyalgia patients who have both, hence, leading to the misconception that tender points and trigger points are the same. Let’s make the distinction between the two loud and clear today. Trigger points are characteristic symptoms of myofascial pain syndrome (MPS). Needless to say, tender points, on the other hand, are distinctive symptoms of fibromyalgia. Trigger points also appear in fibromyalgia patients because myofascial pain syndrome is a chronic pain disorder that is frequently co-exist with fibromyalgia and show overlapping symptoms such as widespread pain, fatigue, sleeplessness, brain fog etc. Till date, experts are still debating on whether the two chronic pain diseases are the same illness.

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Although tender points and trigger points can co-exist in fibromyalgia, they different in nature. Here are some key differences between the two:

Tender Points

Trigger Points

On 18 (pairs of 9) specific locations on the body, which are near the joints.

Can appear anywhere on the body in the muscle (myo) and connective tissues (fascia).

A superficial point around the size of a penny which is just under the skin.

A palpable small hard knot in the muscles or fascia which can be felt under the skin.

Pressure applied using a mere finger on a tender point can cause enough pain to make a patient wince. The tender point can result in immediate areas being more sensitive.

Pain can be felt when pressure is applied on the point. Without applied pressure, the trigger point can cause pain in immediate areas or referred pain where pain is felt in other unexpected areas.

Presence of 11 out of the 18 points for at least 3 months is a crucial prerequisite for diagnosing fibromyalgia.

MPS is diagnosed when patients suffer from chronic pain due to the presence of multiple trigger points.

Does not appear as any anomaly in muscles tissues. No medical technology can help with the location of tender points.

Appears as anomalies in muscle tissues which can be observed and located with magnetic resonance elastography and tissue biopsy.

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