Trigger Point Injections FAQ

What is a trigger point?

A trigger point is commonly defined as a taut muscle band or a palpable knot of muscle that is painful. It is thought that a trigger point causes pain because the blood supply to a particular muscle is constricted which leads to decreased oxygen delivery and consequent pain. Pain creates muscle spasm and then further pain – the so called “pain-spam-pain” cycle. A trigger point can cause a localized pain or a referred pain that can even mimic the pain people feel from nerves being pinched in their neck or low back

How are trigger point injections helpful?

A trigger point injection is a specific type of local injection that your physician can use to treat local areas of muscle pain and spasm. Your physician may choose to give a trial of trigger point injections to see if they can help these areas of local muscle tenderness and relieve pain.

Common medications used in trigger point injections include local anesthetic, normal saline, and occasionally small doses of steroid medications. Many studies have been done on trigger point injections and the efficacy of these different types of medications. Research has demonstrated that just the local placement of the needle can help with muscle spasms, similar to acupuncture. The volume of the solution can affect the muscle spasm as well. Utilizing a local anesthetic to numb the region of pain can help break the cycle of pain. A small dose of anti-inflammatory medication at the site can help decrease inflammation as well. Often times even the injection of normal saline can be helpful for pain.

What can I expect during the treatment?

Using a small needle, trigger point injections are administered into the belly of the affected muscle. Generally, with muscle spasms and trigger points, more than one muscle group is affected requiring multiple injections at various sites. The injections are well tolerated but some patients may experience mild discomfort with needle insertion. Because we are using a local anesthetic to numb the area, most patients experience immediate relief of symptoms following the procedure. Some patients experience rebound pain once the anesthesia wears off but most have relief of symptoms for several days or even weeks. Trigger point injections are sometimes repeated in a series, depending on the results of the injections and the relief of pain that they provide.

What are the risks and complications?

Trigger point injections are a safe and effective treatment with minimal risk for infection. No procedure is completely risk-free. Potential risks may include pain at the injection site, allergic reaction, infection at the injection site and injury to tissues at the injection site including bleeding, bruising or swelling. The procedure may also fail to reduce pain symptoms.