FAQ’s on Trigger Point Injection
What is a Trigger Point Injection?
A trigger point is an area of the body, located over a tightened muscle group, which is excessively tender to the touch and may cause pain or involuntary muscle spasms in patients when pressure is applied. Trigger points occur over muscle groups that are in a near-permanent state of tightness, causing patients to feel as if they have a knotted muscle that may flare with pain if touched.
A trigger point injection seeks to provide patients symptomatic pain relief by administering a numbing anesthetic directly into the problematic area, and have been found to be effective for a variety of symptomatic pains according to a study (Effect of Treatment on Trigger Points) published in 2010 by the Current Pain and Headache Report.
What will a Trigger Point Injection treat?
The tightened muscles that trigger points influence are the result of an extended period of muscular overuse. There are numerous methods of overuse that can result in a trigger point forming, with the primary method being simple physical overuse. Other causes include complications with the spine, excess stress, and injury to the muscle groups from a sudden jerking motion –typically seen as a result from whiplash.
Trigger points may also form and act as symptomatic causes in patients with chronic cluster or tension headaches, fibromyalgia, or TMJ syndrome. A trigger point injection is able to provide pain relief for patients by numbing the area containing the trigger point. They have been used as in clinical trials as a direct treatment for tension headaches (The effect of trigger point management by positional release therapy on tension type headache, 2010) and as a means of treating myofascial pain (Laser therapy and needling in myofascial trigger point deactivation, 2013).
How are Trigger Point Injections performed?
A trigger point injection is a relatively simple outpatient procedure that uses a small needle to inject into the muscular tissue of a tightened area. The site of injection will be sterilized, with local anesthetic applied to numb the tissue. After confirming the exact location of the trigger point to be treated, the physician will administer a small injection into the trigger point to check if the patient has the expected muscular spasm in response. If the response occurs, the needle has been positioned where it can benefit the patient.
After correctly placing the needle into the trigger point, a small amount of anesthetic will be injected. The injection goal is the numbing of the tightened muscles to allow them to naturally relax, which provides symptomatic pain relief and assists in reducing the amount of muscle spasms that occur. It is not uncommon for a patient to receive multiple instances of anesthetic injection during this time, as each injection can work to loosen and relax muscles further to provide better relief.
How well does a Trigger Point Injection work?
While a single trigger point injection can provide pain relief for patients as a standalone procedure, the treatment is able to provide more optimum relief when combined with other methods of treatment (such as the application of a warm compress to the area of muscular pain). Trigger point injections have been found to be a reliable solution for patients with TMJ, episodic tension headaches, and myofascial pain. Patients receiving a trigger point injection for headaches are normally able to reduce both the frequency and the severity of headaches.
What are the risks of a Trigger Point Injection?
It is extremely rare for a patient to experience a side effect after receiving a trigger point injection. There is a small risk of bleeding, swelling, or infection at the site of injection. Some patients may experience an allergic reaction to the anesthetic used. A rare risk faced by patients receiving multiple trigger point injections too quickly (multiple injections into the same trigger point in too short a timeframe) is the possible formation of scar tissue.