Cancer Treatment Centers of America

Trigger point injections

Trigger points refer to irritable spots along skeletal muscle. This type of muscle is needed for movement, which occurs when the muscle applies force to bones and joints. Trigger points develop from an acute trauma, such as a fall, vehicle accident or sports injury, or from repetitive microtrauma.

Commonly called muscle knots, these spots may be painful in the affected area, such as the neck, shoulders and pelvis. Pain may be felt in in another part of the body when a trigger point irritates a nearby nerve. Trigger points can cause tension headaches, ringing in the ears (tinnitus), decreased range of motion in the legs and low back pain.

Cancer patients may be treated with trigger point injections before beginning physical therapy. The treatment may reduce pain and increase physical function, potentially improving outcomes from physical therapy.

People with chronic musculoskeletal disorders, such as fibromyalgia, oftentimes experience pain from trigger points. One in 10 Americans has one or more chronic musculoskeletal disorders. Trigger point injections may be a treatment option if you have trigger points that are painful when the muscle is at rest, twitch when pressure is applied and radiate pain to other parts of your body.

Trigger point injections may be used for the following conditions:

  • Pain in the arms, legs, lower back and neck
  • Fibromyalgia, a disorder causing musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, sleep disturbance and psychological distress
  • Myofascial pain syndrome, a type of fibromyalgia causing chronic pain of the connective tissue around muscle
  • Tension headaches

A trigger point injection contains a local anesthetic, saline or steroid. A pain specialist administers the injection using a small needle. The injection takes only a few minutes and is designed to sustain pain relief by inactivating the trigger point. Trigger point injections may be applied to more than one affected area at one time. You may experience soreness at the after the injection. It’s important to stay active and to use your full range of motion in the treated muscle during the week following your injection. But avoid strenuous activity, particularly in the first three to four days after treatment.