What are trigger points?
Trigger points are painful bands or knots of tissue that occur within muscle. Besides local pain, they may also cause pain in other parts of the body due to irritation of surrounding nerves.
What are trigger point injections?
The trigger point procedure involves injection of the painful area with a local anesthetic and sometimes a corticosteroid. Several trigger points can be treated in one visit, and the process is brief, taking only a few minutes. Sessions may be repeated over several visits and coordinated with physical therapy if necessary, though some patients report lasting relief after only one session. Trigger point injections can also be used to help treat fibromyalgia and tension headaches.
What should I expect from the injection?
While the trigger point is being injected, you may briefly experience the same pain that has been previously aching. This pain may be quite sharp, but very brief. Immediately afterward, there's often a marked reduction in the typical pain pattern. There may also be more freedom of movement of the involved muscles with less stiffness. After the early decrease in pain, some people go through a brief period of muscle soreness and stiffness, but this usually does not last longer than 24 hours. 2-3 days after your injection, you should notice a decrease in your pain along with increased freedom of movement.
You may experience soreness, bruising, or even an increase in pain for a few days until your body has time to recuperate from the injections. Heat and stretching exercises may help to lessen the discomfort.
How many times do I need to receive injections?
In general, a series of four injections, 3-7 days apart, is required initially. Based on your response to this, you and your physician will be able to determine the appropriateness of additional injections.
How long does the effect of the injection last?
The beneficial effect of the injections depends on the adequacy of your overall treatment program, including physical therapy and your regular performance of home exercises. When the injections are done in this context, a single series of injections should provide long-lasting benefit. Some individuals, despite diligent effort to performing the exercises, experience chronic recurrences and require more injections.
Are there any special preparations?
Before you receive a trigger point injection, it is beneficial if you know how to perform exercises to stretch the involved muscles. Then, after the injections, you should immediately perform them once per hour for the remainder of that day.