Trigger Point Injections
Trigger points or “muscle spasms” are localized areas of painful muscle spasm or hyper-contracted muscle. They can result from injury, stress, infection, repetitive movements, or chronic muscle stains.
Trigger points can cause local pain over the trigger point, which to the examiner feels like a tender “muscle knot”. They can also cause referred pain to other areas of the body. Left un-treated, trigger points lead to the release of a variety of chemicals that can cause changes in the spinal cord and brain, resulting in chronic widespread pain and increased sensitivity to pain in general.
There are various ways to treat trigger points:
- Stretching, heat and massage can relax the trigger point thus reducing pain,
- Medications such as antidepressants, narcotic and non-narcotic anti-inflammatory medicines have been shown to provide relief,
- Home or therapy based electro-stimulation units can disrupt the pain signaling and help relax the muscle reducing pain.
Sometimes, a combination of the above treatments does not effectively treat the patient’s pain, requiring the use of additional interventions or medications. Additionally, the use of narcotics for long-term muscle pain has increased in recent years, although evidence for its long-term effectiveness is weak and carries a risk of undesirable side effects and addiction.
Trigger point injections help ease or resolve the pain associated with trigger points by breaking the runaway cycle of pain and inflammation and allowing the body to naturally return to its balanced state. Not to be confused with acupuncture, a 2000-year-old Chinese form of medicine, trigger point injections involves placing a small needle directly into the inflamed muscle. It is thought that this causes the muscle to relax which reduces pain and “resets” the muscle to its natural state.
Trigger point injections can be performed by physical therapists in what is called “dry needling,” in which no medications are injected into the muscle. On the other hand, physicians can inject a local anesthetic into the muscle causing a more immediate reduction in pain.
Trigger point injections are generally safe and can be repeated as needed. They can be used in conjunction with other treatments such as massage and physical therapy to relieve pain.