What is a Trigger Point?

Trigger points are focal areas of spasm, scar tissue, and inflammation in skeletal muscle.  These are created as a way for our body to reinforce a weakening muscle.  Rather than the muscle tearing, it gets tied up in a knot.  This is an acceptable short-term fix that our body can provide.  But left there over the long term, Trigger Points lead to more stress and pressure on the muscle and everything to which it is attached.

These points can cause significant local or referred pain and can create a diagnostic dilemma for your doctors.  Patients are often misdiagnosed with conditions such as Migraine Headache, Cervical Disc Syndrome, and Sciatica, when all along the cause of the problem was a Trigger Point.  For example, the muscles located in the upper back and shoulder region are a common site of trigger points. In these areas, trigger points typically cause neck pain, upper back pain, shoulder pain, and headaches. Trigger points can occur anywhere there is muscle tissue.  It is also not uncommon to find them in the lower back, hips, muscles of the jaw, and in the arms and legs.

Often there is a palpable nodule in the muscle where the trigger point is located. The area is tender, and frequently when pushed, pain radiates from the trigger point and is felt in a different location. Trigger points commonly accompany chronic musculoskeletal disorders such as fibromyalgia, myofascial pain syndrome, tension headaches, TMJ Syndrome, and chronic neck and low back pain.  Acute trauma, stress, poor posture, and repetitive minor injury can all lead to the development of trigger points.

What is a Trigger Point Injection?

A trigger point injection (TPI) is an injection that is given directly into the trigger point. The medication used at Palmetto Physical Medicine in the injection is called Marcaine, which is an anesthetic.  Marcaine is similar to what your dentist uses to numb you before a procedure.  The effect of the injection is twofold.  First, there is immediate pain relief due to the numbing effect of the medication.  Second, the medication causes the knot in the muscle to release.  This release can be long lasting as long as other contributing factors are also addressed.