Do you have areas of muscle pain, spasm, or inflammation in your body? Can you feel knotted muscle tissue anywhere under your skin? These localized areas of pain are what are known as trigger points. The good news is that a procedure called a trigger point injection (TPI) is an effective treatment option that can help your muscles relax and stop the pain associated with trigger points.
Trigger points can develop in those with chronic musculoskeletal disorders such as fibromyalgia, myofascial pain syndrome, neck pain, and low back pain. They may also occur in those with frequent tension headaches and jaw pain. Acute trauma or repetitive minor injury to a certain area can also lead to the development of trigger points.
TPIs are given in a health care professional’s office and usually take just a few minutes. During a TPI procedure, the health care professional locates the trigger point by hand and marks the site. Then, the injection site is cleaned with alcohol or another antiseptic. Frequently, a numbing spray such as ethyl chloride is used to anesthetize the skin and make the actual injection less painful.
The health care professional then inserts a small needle into the patient’s trigger point. The injection delivers saline, a local anesthetic, and may include a steroid medication (e.g., cortisone). These
medicines work to relieve pain and reverse inflammation. Often, a brief course of treatment will result in sustained relief. After the injection, a simple adhesive bandage may be applied to keep the area clean.
The most common side effect of the procedure is mild post-injection pain, like you might experience with any type of injection. This pain usually resolves by itself after a few days. Ice, heat, or over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen sodium may be useful for post-injection pain. Follow your doctor’s advice on how to best manage your pain.
Optimally, a patient will find permanent relief after just one treatment. This typically happens when a patient has one isolated trigger point, especially if the cause of the trigger point has been removed (such as a minor trauma that has healed or a repetitive movement that will no longer be performed).
Trigger points caused by chronic conditions such as fibromyalgia and myofascial pain syndrome tend to recur due the underlying problem. In these cases, TPIs may be administered on a regular or as needed basis. The frequency of trigger point injections depends on the medication being injected. If only lidocaine or a mixture of anesthetics is injected, then the injections can be administered as ongoing therapy as frequently as monthly. If a steroid medication is injected, TPIs should be administered much less frequently, at the discretion of the treating health care professional, because of the risk of tissue damage or shrinkage from the steroid medication.
If you’re experiencing pain that’s interfering with your quality of life, then make an appointment to see a pain specialist such as Dr. Mingi Choi of Somerset Orthopedic & Sports Medicine. Dr. Choi has more than 25 years of experience successful diagnosing and treating those who suffer from chronic pain. He is board-certified by the American Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and a Fellow of American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.