What is a Trigger Point?
A trigger point is a small tightening knot in the muscle. This knot is usually very sensitive and tender when touched. There are approximately 400 muscles in the body, and any one of those can develop trigger points. Common sites are in the muscles of the neck, shoulder blades, upper, mid, and lower back. Trigger points are often formed in muscles that have been overused or injured. 0nce a trigger point is formed, it can be there for life unless properly treated.
What triggers a Trigger Point?
0nce a trigger point is formed, it can be there for life unless properly treated. Trigger points are often formed in muscles that have been overused or injured. Poor posture is a primary cause for trigger points in the upper back and neck area. Other causes include:
- Repetitive movements that cause stress on muscles
- Driving for an extended period
- Standing or sitting at a desk or computer for long periods of time
- Overuse or misuse of certain muscles
- Emotional stress and anxiety
Stretching, Myofascial release, massage, regular exercise, and stress reduction can all be useful in treating trigger points. When these strategies don’t work, a Trigger Point Injection may be useful.
What is a Trigger Point Injection (TPI)?
A TPI is an injection used massage the tightened muscle, causing it to relax. Trigger point injections are similar to getting a massage by a therapist; only these injections can get deeper into the problematic area. During these injections your physician will use a small amount of an anesthetic (numbing agent) to reduce soreness. This injection can be done as an out patient procedure in your physician’s office.
How is this injection done?
- Your physician will have you sit in a chair in the exam room
- Once he or she has determined the area, using your help, they will begin
- Your physician will slowly insert a needle into your trigger point. He or she will move the needle in and out (called a “peppering” technique) of the tight muscle, causing a “twitch” to occur. This twitch is good, because this causes the muscle to relieve the tension that has been built up
- You physician may do a few different areas but will not exceed 4 trigger point injections per visit
- You will not need to miss work or take any recovery time for this procedure. You will be sore but this is expected
What happens after the trigger point injection?
Immediately after the TPI you may find that your pain gets worse. This occurs because placing a needle into an already irritated muscle causes more irritation. This soreness can be felt 3-4 days after the injection. You may use ice, heat or stretching exercises to help decrease soreness. Once the soreness has worn off, you should start to feel relief in your trigger point area.
Typically, your physician will want you to follow-up 3 weeks after the procedure to review benefit, however this will be decided at the time of the injection.