Trigger Point Injection Frequently Asked Questions
What is a trigger point?
A trigger point is an area of muscle that feels to people like a tight area or knot. It is often tender and when pressed “triggers” pain. Muscle spasms frequently occur.
Pain from a trigger point may also radiate down a leg or arm, especially when pressed. What the point represents is an overused muscle from either a spine issue, stress, overuse activity, etc. For instance, a person may experience whiplash from a car accident and end up with a trigger point from the aftermath.
What is a trigger point injection?
This injection involves placement of numbing medicine into the trigger point to relieve the muscle spasms and tightness.
Who benefits from these injections?
Any individual who is having muscle pain in the back, neck. legs, shoulders or arms from a trigger point may benefit.
Here are four issues that cause this:
- Myofascial pain – chronic muscle tissue pain
- TMJ Syndrome
- Tension headaches
The diagram shows areas that are typically affected. These injections are often utilized in conjunction with other pain treatments like physical therapy, spinal decompression therapy, massage, acupuncture, medications, chiropractic treatment, or deeper injections.
For instance, if an individual is having sciatica from a pinched nerve, it may also lead to muscle spasms and a trigger point. The trigger injection along with an epidural steroid injection may provide optimal relief.
How are they performed?
These are simple, outpatient procedures. The pain management doctor sterilizes and numbs up the overlying skin. The needle used is extremely small.
Once the needle is in place, usually a twitch is seen and felt, and the doctor knows he is in the proper position. A small amount of numbing medicine is injected, and possibly steroid medicine is also included.
Sometimes, moving the needle in and out a few times achieves the best results. It is the combination of the medicine plus the “twitching” that is thought to relieve the spasms and pain.
Whether or not the addition of steroid medication is necessary is not quite known. Once completed, a simple bandage is placed.
How well do they work?
For myofascial pain syndrome, trigger point injections work very well. There is also some evidence to support their usage for TMJ as well (Pain Pract. 2011 Mar-Apr;11(2):132-8.)
Trigger point injections have been shown to be an effective treatment for tension type headaches with regards to decreasing frequency and duration (NeuroRehabilitation. 2012;30(4):333-9.)
They may need to be repeated every few weeks for optimal results, and also performed in conjunction with additional treatments.
What are the risks?
The risks of a trigger point injection are exceptionally low. If too many are performed repetitively, the muscle may develop some scar tissue. So being judicious is preferable. In addition, there is a small risk of infection, bleeding, and they may not work.
In addition, if the needle is placed too deep there may be a dropped lung. That would be unusual.
If you are experiencing back or neck pain, or discomfort in any of the diagram areas, pain relief is available. In addition, those with fibromyalgia may obtain much needed relief from trigger injections.
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