- What are Trigger Points?
- Understanding How Trigger Point Injections Work
- Trigger Point Injection Procedure
- Benefits of Trigger Point Injections
Trigger point injections can relieve painful muscle knots. It is estimated that 85 percent of the population will experience one or more muscle knots in a lifetime. Muscle knots can be very painful and lead to restricted movements. Sometimes the muscle knots can be treated at home. Trigger point injection therapy is a commonly recommended alternative when home treatments do not relieve muscle tightness and pain.
What are Trigger Points?
You can experience acute or chronic myofascial pain syndrome. The myofascial system is made of muscles that contract and connective tissue. Connective tissue determines the shape of the muscle, may penetrate the muscle and determines the placement of the nerve and vascular endings. When the myofascial system is disturbed in some way, it can cause pain and lead to limited movement.
Sometimes, muscles get inflamed and tight from something like exercise or vigorous work activities, but they tend to return to normal over a few weeks. When the muscle tightness persists, a trigger point may form. Trigger points are areas of tight, irritated and inflamed muscles that are stiff and painful. The muscle knots can develop wherever there is muscle or fascia, but they commonly develop in the shoulders, back, neck, hip, the upper backside of the leg and jaw.
Besides limiting the range of motion, tense hard muscle knots can spasm, radiate pain to surrounding tissues and cause feelings of stress. An active trigger point is painful whether or not you touch it, and a latent trigger point hurts when pressure is applied. It is believed that trigger points develop due to muscle overuse or underuse, repetitive muscle straining, poor posture, stress, sitting too long, vitamin or mineral deficiencies or poor nutrition.
Understanding How Trigger Point Injections Work
Muscle knots that develop due to strenuous activities can usually be treated with cold and hot packs or over-the-counter pain medications. Sometimes, massage or stretching exercises can relieve muscle tension. However, when the painful muscle knots persist, the doctor may recommend trigger point injections.
The shot for muscle pain is the injection of a local anesthetic, corticosteroid or Botox into the muscle band to relax it. Each of these works differently.
- Local anesthetic – blocks pain receptors
- Corticosteroid – reduces inflammation in the muscle and connective tissue
- Botox – prevents muscle contractions
The trigger shot for pain is a quick procedure done in the doctor’s office.
Trigger Point Injection Procedure
The injections for muscle spasms or muscle pain only take about 15 minutes, plus you will rest afterward for 15 minutes before going home. The doctor locates the trigger point and, using a syringe, inserts the syringe needle into the knotted muscle. The procedure involves needling the area. The doctor will partially withdraw and re-insert the needle several times and in different directions until the muscle stops twitching or relaxes. The doctor decides if an injection of a local anesthetic like lidocaine is needed when the patient is experiencing pain.
In some cases, no anesthetic is given. This is called dry-needling. The muscle reacts to the needle, so no drug is needed.
For chronic, severe pain, a steroid might also be injected. The steroid injection for muscle pain may be given six times at most, while a local anesthetic injection could be given more times. Patients may only need one trigger point injection, but more than one is usually required. An injection of an anesthetic works quickly to relieve pain. The steroid takes longer to take effect. In either case, you will experience pain relief between 1-3 days, lasting approximately 30 days.
Benefits of Trigger Point Injections
Trigger point injections are very low-risk procedures, and no preparation is needed. After the injection, you are asked to avoid vigorous activity for several days. Of course, the main benefit is getting relief from pain to resume your normal life activities.