Perhaps you have heard of trigger point injections as a way to address pain, but have been curious as to how the process works. Trigger point injections are utilized to manage myofascial pain syndrome. This is a painful musculoskeletal disorder that causes small knots to develop in the fascia tissues or muscles, causing pain to be experienced in various other areas of the body (this is described as “referred pain”).
At EmergeOrtho—Triangle Region, our Interventional Pain Management Team physicians are skilled and experienced in performing trigger point injections. Additionally, our Physical Therapy Team provides a similar variation of trigger point injections called “dry needling,” which we will explore in more detail later.
When other conservative approaches have failed to alleviate musculoskeletal pain, trigger point injections can be a promising solution. Learn more about this process and how it might help to relieve your myofascial pain.
How Does Trigger Point Injection (TPI) Work?
Pain resulting from myofascial trigger points ranges from a 30% to 90% prevalence rate among patients. As we mentioned earlier, trigger points consist of small knots of skeletal muscle fibers. When compressed, these knots can cause referred pain in the body. Some of the potential ways that trigger points develop include:
- Repetitive stress to the muscle
- Leg-length inequality
- Joint disorders
- Vitamin deficiency
- Posture problems
- Extensive inactivity
- Sleeping issues
- Muscle-tissue injuries (post-viral syndrome or whiplash, as examples)
Your pain management physician may recommend trigger point injections to relieve pain when other conservative treatments have failed. To perform this procedure, your doctor may:
- Locate the trigger point by physical touch
- Utilize ultrasound or x-ray guidance to avoid complications from nearby structures.
The next step is cleansing and disinfecting the treatment site prior to inserting the needle into the affected areas of muscle, then typically injecting:
- Local anesthetic
- Botulinum toxin (BOTOX)
- Dry needling
Trigger point injections are often performed as an outpatient procedure, typically only taking a matter of minutes to complete.
Is Dry Needling the Same Thing As Trigger Point Injection?
Dry needling is considered an adaptive type of trigger point injection, in which a thin filiform needle is used to stimulate trigger points to release tension in the muscle, fascia, and connective tissue.
Because of the use of the thin needle, people can tend to link dry needling and acupuncture together. However, acupuncture’s focus is releasing and promoting the flow of energy, unlike dry needling, that focuses on reducing muscle pain.
What Can You Expect After Trigger Point Injections?
After receiving your trigger point injections, your doctor will likely recommend physical therapy exercises and stretches to help maximize the results of your injection and further ease your pain and discomfort.
It is normal to have some bruising, tenderness, soreness, and pain while you heal from the treatment.
The main muscle groups that benefit from trigger point injections include:
- Lower back
Are Trigger Point Injections Right for You?
The best way to know if trigger point injections are right for you is to have a consultation with one of our board-certified, EmergeOrtho—Triangle Region Pain Management physicians or physical therapists (for dry needling). Schedule an appointment. Or, call us any time at (919) 220-5255.