Understanding How Trigger Point Injections Work

Understanding How Trigger Point Injections Work

Trigger point injections are a pain management treatment that involves injecting a local anesthetic, often combined with a steroid medicine, into a trigger point to relax muscles and relieve pain.

Here at Total Care Family Practice in Henderson, Nevada, pain management physician, Dr. Evan Allen, is well-versed in a full range of pain management techniques. Restoring a pain-free life, or as close as possible, is Dr. Allen’s top priority. 

A trigger point is a tender area of muscle that develops when the fascia surrounding the muscle contracts and doesn’t release. Frequently, a trigger point is referred to as a "knot," beneath the skin that can produce pain in the location where it has developed, as well as other body areas (referred pain). Trigger point injections are an effective way to manage this type of pain. 

Understanding trigger points

When a muscle is injured, the injured muscle fibers tighten. In most cases, the muscle repairs itself and the contracted muscle fibers relax. But sometimes the muscle fibers remain severely tight, and this causes a trigger point. You can feel trigger points if you move your hand along the muscle. The trigger point feels like a knot. 

In people with trigger points, the muscle fibers fail to relax with typical treatments such as massage or heat therapy. Not only that, but these tight, tender muscles can trigger pain elsewhere in the body, including the arms, legs, and lower back. 

What causes trigger points to form?

Scientists aren’t sure why these tight muscles remain contracted instead of going through the healing process and relaxing. Trigger points often develop in areas with low circulation. Perhaps the lack of blood flow prevents trigger points from recovering normally. 

Trigger points often form in people with musculoskeletal disorders. These people may be more susceptible to them because their muscles are already inflamed or under stress. 

You’re also more likely to develop trigger points if you sit for long periods of time or have poor posture.

How do trigger point injections work?

A trigger point injection contains a combination of anti-inflammatory and muscle-relaxing medicines. As the medication takes effect, blood circulation will increase, and the body will begin to repair.

Trigger point injections provide rapid pain relief and alleviate the discomfort they cause in other areas of the body. 

What to expect

Dr. Allen first identifies the trigger point that is causing your symptoms by conducting a physical exam to look for knotted areas in your muscles. As trigger points do not appear on X-rays or MRIs, imaging is not necessary to diagnose them. However, these tests can be useful in ruling out other causes of pain like sprains and fractures.

Typically, receiving a trigger point injection takes only 15 minutes. Several additional injections may be administered over the next few weeks, but after that, injections are often limited to once every two months.

After a trigger point injection, patients are advised to refrain from intense exercise for several days. Most patients will receive pain relief between 24 and 72 hours after injection.

Trigger point injections provide pain relief for about a month. This is usually enough time for the muscle to recover. Repeated injections may be needed if the problem becomes chronic. 

Getting relief from trigger point pain

Trigger point injections are safe and effective, and they can be combined with other treatments, such as physical therapy. If you’re ready to restore pain-free living, then you’re ready to try trigger point injections.

To schedule a visit with Dr. Allen, call our office and a team member will assist you in booking. 

Our team can get you on the path to feeling and functioning better.

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