Trigger point injections are often recommended to people suffering from fibromyalgia, myofascial pain syndrome and tension headaches. But what exactly are trigger points and how can a trigger point injection help?
Trigger points are contraction knots that are typically located in the shoulders, upper and lower back muscles and in the extremities. These typically affect muscles and the fascia. Unlike spasms which affect whole muscles, trigger points only affect a minute part of the muscle.
Trigger points are called such because they cause referred pain. When you press trigger points, pain radiates to other areas of the body, typically those that are near them. This is why trigger points in the neck cause tension headaches.
Although trigger points are relatively common, most medical practitioners cannot recognize these. One reason behind these is that trigger points cannot be seen through X-rays or other types of diagnostic imaging methods.
Trigger points are usually associated with other issues like headaches, neck and back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome and tennis elbow.
Trigger points may be caused either by acute strain or repetitive stress. Other factors that may aggravate this condition include poor posture, medications, nutritional deficiencies, allergies and hormonal imbalances.
The location of trigger points is determined through manual palpation. A practitioner will exert pressure on certain areas and confirm the location of the trigger point based on the reaction of the patient when pressure is applied.
Typically, trigger points are treated using a number of different modalities. These modalities include physical therapy, stretching, ultrasound and sprays. However, when the problem remains unresolved after using these modalities, trigger point injection is often recommended.
In trigger point injection, the target area is injected with anesthetics, corticosteroids or saline. There are also circumstances wherein practitioners recommend dry needling where no medication is used. The overall goal of the treatment is to relieve the pain.
Trigger point injection is an in-office procedure. Depending on where the trigger point is located, the patient may asked to sit or lie down. Prior to the injection, the practitioner will locate the trigger point via manual palpation. Once the trigger point has been located, the area will be sanitized prior to the insertion of the needle.
Most patients need only one trigger point injection to find long lasting relief. However, there may be instances, like when a person has fibromyalgia, which necessitate regular trigger point injections until the root cause of the issue has been fully addressed.
The treatment, for the most part, is mildly uncomfortable. There are patients who report soreness and bruising. However, these issues are easily resolved after a few days.