Talking With Your Doctor About Trigger Point Injections
A trigger point is a tight knot or band of muscle that is painful to touch. They commonly occur in the buttocks, back and neck, but can affect almost any body part. Trigger points can be active or latent. Latent trigger points cause muscle weakness and stiffness, but generally cause pain only with pressure. Active trigger points cause pain even at rest. Trigger points can also cause other symptoms, such as headaches and eye pain.
Your doctor can tailor your treatment plan to your specific situation. Here are topics to bring up with your doctor that will help him or her decide the best course of treatment that’s right for you.
Muscle pain can be a sign of various conditions. In order for trigger point injections to help, your doctor needs to identify if you have trigger points. Your doctor will touch and press on painful areas to try to find trigger points. You can help by describing your symptoms. Keep a symptom diary and try to describe them in detail. Note where the pain is, what makes it better or worse, if it always present, and if it spreads. Describe the pain using such terms as dull, aching, shooting, or sharp.
Some people get pain relief from one round of trigger point injections, but others need a series of treatments. If this is the case for you, your doctor will want to compare your symptoms with each treatment. The goal is to relieve your pain and improve mobility for several days or weeks, or longer.
Doctors can treat trigger points using a variety of techniques including:
Acupuncture or dry needling
Spray and stretch—uses a very cold spray to instantly relieve pain and allow complete muscle stretching
Trigger point injection—injects a local anesthetic into the trigger point and stretches the muscle completely
Trigger point pressure release—applies pressure to the trigger point until the knot or band relaxes and softens
Ultrasound therapy including ultrasound-guided injection therapy
Trigger point injections and dry needling are widely accepted treatments for trigger points and may offer the best results. Still, they may not be the best choice for everyone. Ask your doctor why he or she thinks a certain treatment is right for you, and what other options might be available if it doesn’t help. Ask about the side effects to expect, how long it may take for symptoms to subside, and if you’ll need multiple treatments. Having a plan may help you feel better.
Various factors in your lifestyle can contribute to trigger point development. It’s important to understand which ones might play a role so you can adjust your habits. Common contributors include:
Acute injuries including direct hits, strains, twisting, or tearing of muscles
Chronic muscle clenching including tension from mental or emotional stress
Inactivity including being bedridden, sedentary, or out of shape (deconditioned)
Overuse injuries including repetitive motions from day-to-day activities as well as activities like typing, using a mouse, playing a sport, or cradling a telephone
Poor body mechanics including having poor posture and using furniture with poor design
Sustained muscle overloading including heavy lifting, carrying loads with unequal weight distribution, and wearing body armor
Having an honest conversation about your lifestyle will help your doctor identify areas that put you at risk of developing trigger points. Learning proper body mechanics and new ways of moving can help avoid future problems with trigger points.