Trigger Point Injections are used to treat muscle pain, specifically that caused by Myofascial Pain Syndrome. Similar to acupuncture, Trigger Point injections use small needles with medication, typically dextrose and lidocaine, to inject areas affected by tight muscle fibers that cause MPS.
What is Myofascial Pain Syndrome?
Myofascial Pain Syndrome (MPS) is a painful condition that can affect the body in a number of ways, including : muscle tenderness and decreased range of motion as well as affected mood and sleep. The pain often associated with MPS is caused by the formation of tight muscle fibers or trigger points which usually occur in the neck, shoulders, neck, arms, legs and back – but can occur in any muscle group. The formation of these tight muscles fibers, often called ‘knots’, prevent the affected muscle(s) from stretching and contracting as they are intended – leading to discomfort, pain and often times a relentless burning sensation.
The exact cause of MPS is still unknown, but a number of factors can contribute to it, such as : poor posture, continuous pressure on a muscle, surgical incisions, lack of movement or exercise, emotional stress, repetitive movement, and even osteoarthritis.
How is Myofascial Pain Syndrome treated?
It is important to note that there is a difference between treating MPS and treating the pain associated with it. Anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen and aspirin can help ease the physical discomfort of MPS, but they, along with muscle relaxants – do not treat the cause of MPS and are therefore a temporary solution.
Trigger Point Injections on the other hand have been found to significantly reduce muscle tightness, releasing the knots found in the areas affected by MPS. Similar to acupuncture, Trigger Point Injections use small needles with medication (usually dextrose and lidocaine) to inject the affected area, followed by myofascial release therapy, also known as acupressure.
Coping with Myofascial Pain Syndrome
While Trigger Point Injections can release the tight muscle fibers associated with MPS, they cannot prevent them from returning. In many cases, long-term treatment involves not only recurring injections, but it also requires lifestyle changes such as posture retraining, exercise and stretching. It is also known that substances such as caffeine, alcohol and tobacco can exacerbate MPS and these should therefore be limited.
Other useful treatments include using a TENS unit (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulator) to apply low level electrical stimulation to relieve muscle tension and pain. Moist heat can also help to relieve muscle tension and pain by increasing blood flow and relaxing muscles – this includes using moist heating pads, warm showers and baths and moist towels briefly heated in a microwave; do not apply heat for more than 10 – 15 minutes at a time.
Stretches are one of the best ways to combat the pain associated with MPS and prevent them from returning. Click here for a list of our favorite stretches for neck and shoulder pain.