What are Trigger Point Injections?
If a trigger point is present, it is an area of skin located over a muscle group that is overly tightened. This muscle group will become tender to the touch, and may produce feelings of pain or cause involuntary spasms of muscle if pressure is applied to the trigger point. Trigger points can occur on any muscle group that is in a state of near-permanent tightness, which will create an area of sensitivity which may produce pain if touched.
Trigger point injections serve as a method of providing symptomatic pain relief through the use of a numbing agent administered directly into the tightened muscles. The injections have been shown as effective tools for treating a variety of the symptomatic pains caused by trigger point injections.
What can a Trigger Point Injection treat?
The tightened muscles beneath a trigger point occur due to a prolonged period of muscular overuse. There are many different activities a patient can engage in that may result in the formation of a trigger point, with the primary caused simply being physical overuse that leaves the muscles worn out, causing them to tighten. Other potential causes include excess stress of the area, direct injury to the muscle group from sudden movement (such as what is seen with patients who suffer whiplash) and as a secondary effect of one or more complications of the spine.
There are other conditions a patient may have which can result in the formation of trigger points as secondary symptoms. Conditions include the presence of chronic tension or cluster headaches, TMJ syndrome, or the fibromyalgia. Ni the event trigger points have formed as a secondary condition, a trigger point injection is able to provide relief by numbing the affected muscle group. Trigger point injections have been used a method of direct treatment for patients with tension headaches, are also effective in the treatment of myofascial pain.
How is a Trigger Point Injection performed?
Trigger injections are relatively quick outpatient procedures using a small needle to administer a numbing agent directly into the affected muscles of a given area. To begin with, the site designated for injection will be cleaned and sterilized before having local anesthetic applied to make the injection painless. After confirmation of the trigger point’s location, the physician will make a small injection directly into the trigger point. If the needle is in the correct place, the afflicted muscle group will respond by spasming. If this response occurs, the full treatment can begin.
After placed, a small amount of anesthetic will be administered through the needle. The goal of this injection is to numb the tightened group of muscles so that they may relax, resulting in lessened feelings of pain and the in a reduction in the frequency of spasms. Some patients may be given more than one injection into the trigger point, with each subsequent injection producing a more minor spasm response until the muscles have been relaxed to the point of no spasms occurring. This is the ideal result, as it provides pain relief and nearly completely diminishes the effects of the trigger point.
Are there risks with Trigger Point Injections?
It is extremely rare for a trigger point injection to cause side effects. There are very minor risks of swelling or bleeding at the injection site, with some patients potentially having an allergic reaction. The risks of injections are very minor.
How well do Trigger Point Injections work?
While a patient may be able to obtain relief through the use of a single trigger point injection, treatment is able to be better administered when the injection is combined with another method of treatment. Secondary methods include using warm compresses at the site of pain, or in a reduction of the activity of that muscle group.
Trigger point injections are reliable for directly providing relief for both episodic and chronic tension headaches, chronic cluster headaches, myofascial pain, and TMJ. Patients who are receiving injections for headaches are typically able to see a reduction in both the severity and frequency of their headaches.