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APM Spine & Sports Physicians

Trigger Point Injections

What is a trigger point?

A trigger point is a localized, irritable, taut band of muscle that has become a source of considerable pain because it will not relax. When a trigger point is pressed, it will feel sore in the area and can also refer pain over to another part of the body.

What causes trigger points?

Trigger points can develop as a result of:

  • Traumatic injury to the muscle
  • Strain due to repetitive use
  • Poor posture
  • Spine conditions (herniated disc)

Trigger points will eventually affect mobility and posture and will compromise normal movement patterns, leading to soft tissue dysfunction as well as more trigger points, intensifying the pain pattern and dysfunction.

What is the purpose of a trigger point injection?

Injecting a trigger point with anesthetic, saline, or a corticosteroid can relax the muscle and help to eliminate the trigger point. Relaxing the muscle improves blood flow and healing. Without the injection, a trigger point can lead to the development of other trigger points.

What is the procedure like?

We will insert a small needle into your trigger point that will deliver a local anesthetic. You may feel a sharp pain during the injection and you may also feel the muscle jump or “grab.” Usually, right after the trigger point is injected there is a significant decrease in pain and often less stiffness in the muscles.

You may also experience some numbness over the pattern of referral of the muscle injected for about an hour after the injection. There may be some stiffness and soreness, which should not last longer than 24 hours. Within two or three days you should experience a significant decrease in pain.

How long does the procedure take?

We can inject several trigger points in a single visit that should take no more than a few minutes.

How often will I need injections?

Most patients receive an initial series of injections, which are repeated two to three weeks later. Your response to these injections will guide your physician as to whether or not additional injections are indicated.

Are there any special preparations?

Before you receive a trigger point injection, it is beneficial if you know how to perform exercises to stretch the involved muscles. Then, after the injections, you should immediately perform the exercises once per hour for the remainder of that day. Moist heat may also be recommended over the area of the trigger point injections to maximize the benefit from the injections.

How long do injection benefits last?

Trigger point injections are just one component of your overall treatment program, which may also include physical therapy and regular home exercise. If those regimens are faithfully followed, a single series of injections is more likely to provide long-lasting benefit. Some people, however, no matter how diligent they are, will require additional injections.

Are there any risks or side effects to the procedure?

Generally, trigger point injections are quite safe. No procedure is totally without risk, however, and possible complications include temporary muscle soreness, infection, bleeding and bruising. Quite rare are weakness in the injected muscles (up to 45 minutes) or partial collapse of the lung.