Trigger point injections can be an effective means of treating pain emanating from areas of muscle that contain painful trigger points or knots. A trigger point is essentially a small patch of tightly contracted muscle that can actually cut off its own blood supply, leading to further irritation. These trigger points can be thought of as an isolated spasm that affects only a small area of the muscle tissue, as opposed to a whole-muscle spasm, such as a cramp or “charlie horse”).
Many trigger points can actually be felt as palpable nodules or tight bands of muscle fibers. A trigger point can cause pain locally or refer pain along nerve pathways to another area of the body. Trigger points can develop as a result of a number of different factors, including:
- Acute or chronic muscle overload
- Direct injury or trauma to the region
- Psychological distress
- Activation by other trigger points
- Homeostatic imbalances
- Infections and other health issues
Trigger points can be either active or latent. An active trigger point is an area that is extremely tender and always sore. It can be associated with both local and regional pain. Active trigger points can impede full use of the muscle, in turn leading to decreased range of motion and weakness. Latent trigger points on the other hand are “dormant” areas that have the potential to act like a trigger point. These areas do not cause pain during regular activities, but are tender when touched. Latent trigger points can become activated due to fatigue, strain or injury.
The presence of too many painful trigger points can lead to a condition known as myofascial pain syndrome (MPS). Myofascial pain syndrome is characterized by chronic pain and can arise in a single muscle or an entire muscle group. The intensity of this pain varies but can be defined as an aching, stabbing, burning or nagging quality. Since trigger points can irritate the nerves around them, where the patient experiences these symptoms may not be where the source of the pain actually is. This is known as “referred pain”.
Managing Trigger Point Muscle Pain
Trigger points often accompany chronic disorders like fibromyalgia, migraine headaches, neck pain, low back pain and of course myofascial pain syndrome. A trigger point injection can be performed to help diminish the pain associated with trigger points. This outpatient procedure is performed by inserting a small needle into the trigger point and injecting a local anesthetic, which may also be accompanied by a corticosteroid. Typically, a numbing is used to anesthetize the skin before treatment. The patient may also be given a nerve block prior to injection to prevent pain during treatment.
Once administered, the medication works by inactivating the targeted trigger point and alleviating local or regional pain. Sustained relief may require a series of trigger point injections, but the best course of treatment varies from patient to patient. Trigger point injections can be a very effective treatment method, especially when combined with a physical therapy or home exercise program.
Schedule a Consultation in Austin to Learn More about Trigger Point Injections
If you are experiencing intense or ongoing muscle pain but don’t know the cause, trigger points may be the culprit. Call 512-981-7246 today to schedule a consultation with an Austin pain doctor. Our providers will perform a comprehensive pain evaluation to determine if trigger points, or something else, is the culprit. Once your condition has been properly diagnosed, your doctor will create an appropriate treatment plan that eases painful symptoms, allowing you to return to the activities and life you enjoy!