A trigger point injection is a type of treatment used in treating muscle pain in patients. The pain is usually caused by a tight knot of skeletal muscle known as a trigger point. The nodule swells, pushing the adjacent organs, which then presses the nerves and causes pain. This pain can either be mild or severe depending on the size of the nodule. Most of these nodules can be felt under the skin. Trigger point injections (TPI) are effective in treating the legs, arms, lower back and neck muscles. Apart from direct muscle treatment, TPI can also be used to treat chronic problems such as tension headaches, fibromyalgia, and myofascial pain syndrome. These injections cause immediate pain relief in some patients and, with time, can completely alleviate any associated pain.
To treat the problem, the trigger point has to be rendered inactive. The patient is injected at the knot with an anesthetic or saline. Corticosteroid, which is a non-muscle building steroid, is sometimes added in the injections. The medication in the needle causes the swelling to subside, relieving patients of pain. This procedure is normally done in the doctor’s office and takes between 30-45 minutes. The procedure can also be done without any medication. The swollen nodule is pierced with the needle instead and some of the pulse is drawn out. This causes the trigger point to reduce in size, effectively subsidizing the pain. Although uncommon, this procedure is appropriate for patients who are allergic to specific medications.
The anesthetic used usually lasts for around an hour. After it has worn off, patients experience soreness from the needles, especially if the patient received multiple injections. However, the soreness does not last for long and can be reduced through the use of ice and localized massage.
The procedure is normally safe, but like all other invasive treatments, there are a few associated side effects. Patients can suffer secondary infections from the procedure, bleeding or increment in pain. However, these side effects are mostly theoretical. Reported cases are very rare.
Trigger points, if left untreated, can progress excessively causing problems in movement and tissue tear. It is therefore advisable for patients to seek professional care once these nodules are felt. The pain is locally located near the trigger points. However, secondary symptoms may include headaches, tinnitus and decreased range of motion in the shoulder and pelvic girdle muscles. Although there are other treatment methods such as spray and diagnostic sonography, TPI is the most effective and proven.