A trigger point is an area of tightly knotted or painfully sensitive tissue fibers that may form in your muscles or connective tissues (fascia) after an injury or overuse. These sensitive areas can often be felt as small knots in specific locations. One trigger point can cause pain throughout the affected muscle or in a seemingly unrelated area, which is called referred pain.
Trigger points can develop from muscle tightness caused by repetitive motion during work or home activities, such as painting, or from an injury sustained during a sports activity, accidental fall, or automobile accident. The strain placed upon your muscles by poor posture can also result in trigger points.
Stress and anxiety also increase your risk of developing painful trigger points. It’s not clear exactly what role stress plays, but researchers suspect it could be due to tensing your muscles when you feel stressed or anxious. This tightening strains your muscles and makes them more susceptible to trigger point formation.
The symptoms can vary in intensity from individual to individual but may include:
Trigger point pain can come and go, or be constant and interfere with your routine activities, including sleep. Leaning back in a chair, rolling over in bed, and other movements may put pressure on an existing trigger point and cause pain.
A trigger point injection may contain an anesthetic, such as lidocaine, which is delivered directly to knotted muscle tissue for nearly instant relief from the discomfort. Doctors sometimes include medications with the lidocaine to help reduce inflammation.
Once Dr. Clerge-Leger locates the painful trigger point using ultrasound guidance, she swabs the site with disinfectant and delivers the injection. You can expect a slight sting from the needle, but there’s no recovery time required after the injection, which should take effect immediately.