Trigger points are small, tender knots located in the muscles or fascia, a soft connective tissue that surrounds muscles and organs. A nurse or physician can usually identify these tender nodules by pressing and pinching the skin around the painful area. While there is little knowledge regarding the exact cause of trigger points, many physicians believe these small knots develop from chronic muscle spasms and mild inflammatory changes. Nevertheless, trigger point injections are a minimally invasive therapy that uses a local anesthetic and small amounts of steroids to provide long lasting relief for patients with trigger points. These injections are usually recommended to patients with muscle pain that has persisted for more than six weeks despite receiving conservative treatment.
During the procedure, a physician will press and pinch the skin to locate the trigger points. Once these nodules have been identified, the physician will then cleanse the skin and apply a topical anesthetic, if necessary. When the numbing cream has taken effect, the physician will inject the trigger points with a local anesthetic and steroid medication mixture. The combination of these two substances helps decrease muscle spasms in the area and improve blood flow to knotted tissues, which help the trigger points release and heal. The local anesthetic only provides temporary pain relief, so patients may experience some discomfort a few hours after the procedure. The steroids could take 3 -7 days to fully take effect, so pain relief may be gradual over the course of several days. The procedure usually lasts 5 to 10 minutes, after which patients will be able to return home to recover.
Shortly after the procedure, patients may experience some pain relief due to the local anesthetic. This may be accompanied by soreness, bruising, and swelling. To remedy these symptoms, patients can apply heat or ice to the injection sites and take mild anti-inflammatory medications like Tylenol. One week after the procedure, an Orthopedic and Wellness staff member will contact the patient to monitor their pain levels and assess how well the treatment worked for them. Patients should note that with any type of injection, there is potential for tissue or nerve damage. While it is possible to experience temporary side effects related to tissue or nerve damage, serious, long-lasting reactions should be reported to an Orthopedic and Wellness physician immediately. Patients should call 911 and go to the emergency room if they develop shortness of breath after a trigger point injection.