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Trigger point injections are injections carefully sited at trigger points, key areas of muscle pain that can cause chronic pain conditions. In a trigger point injection, the origin of the pain is inactivated, bringing relief to the patient. Well-placed injections can create lasting pain relief and may reduce the need for other pain management techniques. The injections are usually given in a doctor's office or clinic by a pain specialist, a practitioner familiar with the theory and practice of trigger point injections.
Under normal conditions, muscles are designed to contract and relax regularly. Sometimes, an area of muscle is prevented from relaxing, and it turns into a trigger point, a tight knot of tense muscle. Scarring can develop around the trigger point and it can feel intensely uncomfortable. In addition to being painful at the source, trigger points can also cause what is known as referred pain. In referred pain, a problem in one area of the body leads to physical pain in another. This can be frustrating for patients and their physicians to manage.
Trigger points can be identified as tight knots of tissue under the skin. In addition to being painful and tender, the spot will also exhibit what is known as a “jump sign” when it is palpated. Physical contact with the trigger point causes a twitch or jump in the muscle that will be clearly visible. Sometimes, a series of twitches can originate from a single trigger point. Trigger points can be seen in people with fibromyalgia, myofascial pain syndrome, and a variety of other pain conditions.
In trigger point injections, a physician injects an anesthetic, sometimes mixed with a steroid, directly into one or more trigger points. A twitching response typically will be noted and the physician may use local anesthetic to numb the site before performing the injection with the goal of minimizing pain and muscle tension. After the trigger point injection, the patient should feel much better, as the site of the pain has been effectively neutralized by the injection.
The effects of trigger point injections can last for weeks or months. Eliminating the source of pain can allow patients to move more comfortably and freely and it may also eliminate the need to take pain medication. When pain starts to return, the patient can be examined to confirm the source and another series of trigger point injections can be performed to neutralize the trigger points.