Trigger point injections are a pain management treatment that involves injecting a local anesthetic, sometimes combined with a steroid medication, into a trigger point to relax muscles and relieve pain. A trigger point is a tender area of muscle that develops when the tissue surrounding the muscle, called fascia (or myofascia) contracts and sticks to itself. A trigger point is often identified as a “knot,” a bump under the skin that can cause pain in the area where it has developed. In some cases, a trigger point can even cause pain in another area of the body when it affects a nearby nerve; this is called referred pain.
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Why trigger point injections are used
Trigger point injections are used to treat chronic pain in the:
- Lower back
Chronic pain in the areas mentioned above is typically associated with:
- Poor posture
- Injury to the muscle
- Poor mechanics that lead to stress of the muscle
- Joint disorders
Trigger point injections are also used to treat pain associated with certain medical conditions, such as:
- Myofascial pain syndrome
- Tension headaches
What to expect during a trigger point injection procedure
The injections only take a few minutes to perform. Depending on the location of pain, the pain specialist asks the patient to either sit or lie down. Next, he/she feels over the area of pain to locate the trigger point and administers the injection.
Risks associated with trigger point injections
The risk of complications associated with the injections is very low. The most common risks associated with these injections include bleeding or infection at the injection site. Common side effects experienced after a trigger point injection include numbness or soreness at the injection site. These side effects typically resolve within a few days.
Benefits of trigger point injections
Trigger point injections provide pain relief to individuals who have been suffering from pain associated with trigger points and have not found relief using more conservative treatments, like pain medication or physical therapy.
How to prepare for a trigger point injection
There is no preparation needed for a trigger point injection procedure. However, as with any treatment, it is important to discuss all current medications with the medical team.
Post trigger point injection
After a trigger point injection treatment, patients can use the muscle that was treated but are asked to refrain from vigorous activity for a few days. Most patients will experience pain relief starting between 24 and 72 hours after the time of injection. Pain relief can last about one month. Recurring injections may be needed to achieve long-term pain relief. If the injections consist of anesthetic only, patients can receive injections more frequently than if they also contain steroid medication. This is because steroids increase the risk of tissue damage.
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