Though myofascial pain syndrome is medically designated a “benign” condition, for those who suffer with it, it is anything but. For many patients, trigger point injections provide welcome relief from the agony of both its local and referred pain. At Long Island Spine Rehabilitation Medicine, where we focus on alleviating pain and restoring function, not surgery, we take myofascial pain very seriously. Our exceptionally well-qualified physiatrists have brought life-changing relief to numerous patients throughout Long Island who have failed to find help elsewhere.
What is myofascial pain syndrome?
Myofascial pain syndrome is, unfortunately, a common musculoskeletal disorder. It is characterized by the presence of trigger points that are the source of various types of pain, including headache and neck pain, low back pain, fibromyalgia and other musculoskeletal disorders.
What are trigger points?
Trigger points are taut muscle bands, sometimes referred to as “knots,” that are sore to the touch and often produce referred pain elsewhere in the body. These knots result when a muscle can’t relax. Patients themselves are sometimes able to isolate trigger points by touch, feeling the muscle knots under their skin.
While trigger points are frequently treated conservatively through the administration of anti-inflammatory medications, muscle relaxants, massage, physical therapy, active-release therapy, electrical stimulation, and acupuncture, some cases of myofascial pain are not helped by any of these methods. That’s when trigger point injections provide an invaluable option.
Possible Causes of Trigger Points
Though in many cases the reason for myofascial pain cannot be pinpointed, it may result from:
- Injury or trauma to the affected muscle
- Repetitive motion that strains the same muscle again and again
- Poor posture
- Psychological stress
Besides referred pain, patients with myofascial pain may suffer stiffness or weakness of the affected muscle, limited range of motion, and/or pain that intensifies with movement or stretching.
How Trigger Points Are Diagnosed
Although many types of sophisticated diagnostic imaging modalities are currently available, until recently none of them was found to be helpful in locating trigger points. Instead of sending patients for X-rays or MRI scans, doctors have had to rely on palpation during physical examination to find the precise locations to be targeted. Trained hands have been able to find the hypersensitive nerve bundle, usually an abnormally hard nodule of muscle fiber that causes the patient intense pain at the site and/or radiated pain at another location.
In spite of the efficacy of hands-on diagnosis of trigger points, until now medical professionals still lacked objective diagnostic criteria. Recent studies by the National Institutes of Health, however, have found that trigger points can be visualized through the newest, innovative ultrasound devices which can be used to guide proper needle placement in muscle tissue. This new data is also helpful in explaining the positive effect of trigger point injections in blocking peripheral nerves.
How Trigger Point Injections Work
At Long Island Spine, we have found trigger point injections to be a successful method of treating myofascial pain. These injections serve to break up the taut muscle bands and reduce membrane irritability by introducing a small amount of anesthetic and, at times, steroid into the muscle.
Interestingly, injections alone, without medications, a procedure known as intramuscular stimulation or “dry needling,” has also proven effective. Dry needling can decrease muscle tightness, increase blood flow, and reduce local and referred pain. It seems that the relief provided by trigger point injections may be affected by both the mechanical effect of the needle and the chemical effect of the agents injected. The result, in either case, may be a blessing to our patients who experience pain alleviation as their muscle fibers relax and lengthen.
What happens when you receive trigger point injections?
Administration of trigger point injections is quick and simple. You receive the treatment while sitting or lying down. Even though the process may require several injections, it will only take a few minutes. Once the doctor has treated you, you are able to return to your normal routine and use the targeted muscle immediately. Strenuous activity, however, should be avoided for the first few days.
You may experience pain or numbness, bruising or dimpling of the skin at the injection site, but these aftereffects will resolve within hours or days. Reactions to trigger point injections, like responses to many types of medical treatment, vary from person to person. Some patients experience almost immediate relief from pain and increased range of motion; others see positive results within a few weeks. When trigger point injections are successful, their benefits can provide relief for several months and may be repeated at intervals your doctor recommends.
Stop Living with Chronic Pain — Contact Long Island Spine Today
At Long Island Spine, our doctors have outstanding credentials and have been chosen as top doctors by their peers. Our reputation for compassionate care, as well as excellent nonsurgical pain management and rehabilitation, is widespread. Our patients give us glowing recommendations and report that they are experiencing renewed mobility and the pleasure of absence from pain. Many report that our trigger point injections have helped them when other treatments have failed.
While trigger point injections are not universally effective, our experienced, knowledgeable doctors will help you understand whether they are a good option for you. Why not take the first step toward bringing back your sense of well-being? Make an appointment at whichever Long Island Spine office is most convenient for you and make your health your priority. We promise to make it ours.