Trigger Point Injections or TPIs are an often-used pain management technique. It is so called because they are used to treat suspected trigger points or painful knots of muscle formed as a result of the muscle’s failure to relax. You can often feel these knots under your skin. They are most often found in the upper back and shoulder areas. Trigger points have the ability to affect the nerves around them and cause pain in other parts of your body. TPIs can treat a number of conditions like myofascial pain syndrome, tension headache and fibromyalgia.
A TPI is administered by a healthcare professional directly into your trigger point. The injection usually contains a saline or local anesthetic. In some cases it may also contain a corticosteroid. The injection is used to alleviate pain from the trigger point. The process of TPI administration usually takes only a handful of minutes and takes place at a doctor’s clinic. One session can lead to sustained relief. You can opt to get more than one pressure point injected in one session.
In the off-chance that a patient is allergic, a dry-needle technique is used where no mediation is involved.
The patient is asked to lie down or sit on the examination table. The medical practitioner in question first identifies the trigger points by manual palpation and proceeds to mark this site. Next, the injection site is cleaned with alcohol or Betadine. A numbing spray may or may not be used in addition to lessen the discomfort felt when the injection is administered. The doctor may choose to cover the injection site with an adhesive tape, if he/she wants. If the patient continues to experience pain after the injection has been administered, the doctor may advise the use of ice, heat, Tylenol and OTC NSAIMs.
Who can administer TPIs?
TPIs are most commonly administered by pain-management doctors, rheumatologists, rehabilitation and physical medicine doctors. Family practice doctors, generalists, neurologists and internists often also perform the same.
Are there any complications of having a TPI performed?
No, not really. You may experience some amount of post-injection pain, but that’s all. Although, uncommon some patients have reported incidences of it. It is nothing to worry about and will subside of its own. Post-injection pain is most common with dry needling.
If you have a chronic condition like myofascial pain syndrome, the trigger point will be of a recurring nature necessitating multiple TPIs. In other cases, one TPI should be enough to take care of an isolated trigger point. The medication being used in the TPI also has a bearing on how frequently you are allowed to get a TPI. It isn’t healthy to get a steroidal TPI very often because of the risk of muscle shrinkage. While the efficacy of TPIs are still debatable, the introduction of ultrasound technology to the process has been extremely beneficial – helping identify trigger points and reducing injuries inherent with blind injections.