Back And Neck Pain: Identifying Common Trigger Points

Back and neck pain have a myriad of causes and there are specific treatments that can help those who suffer from this common malady. This blog will discuss the relationship of trigger points to neck and back pain and how they can be used to help treat those who suffer from chronic neck and low back pain.

What are trigger points?

Trigger points are inflamed, angry muscles that are in spasm. They are found throughout the body. Most commonly they are located around the neck, shoulders and upper back such as at the trapezius and rhomboid muscles.

A trigger point is not a muscle strain or tear. A muscle strain or tear involves actual damage to the muscle or tendon fibers. There is no such injury to the muscle with a trigger point.

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What does a trigger point feel like?

Trigger points are tender. There is a deep, burning ache when you apply pressure over them. The tight muscles and knots that are contracted or are in spams can trap and irritate surrounding nerves. These entrapped nerves cause pain that extends beyond the muscle to other parts of the body, also known as referred pain. An example is applying pressure to a trigger point at the trapezius muscle, which is a muscle located in the neck and upper back. The pain felt at the trapezius muscle when stimulated can radiate beyond the trapezius muscle over to the deltoid muscle located on the upper arm.

Who gets trigger points?

Trigger points are common and anyone can get them. There are a variety of causes. They occur with repetitive activities that overload the muscles such as with typing at a computer or throwing a ball overhead. Trigger points occur after traumatic injuries as well, such as those following work related injuries or as a result of car accidents. They are also associated with certain musculoskeletal conditions such as chronic neck pain (a frequent cause of headaches) and chronic low back pain.

How do you treat trigger points?

There are several different ways to treat trigger points. Often times rest and relaxation is enough. If rest and relaxation alone is not effective, then physical therapy or massage therapy may be helpful. If the trigger points persist and these conservative approaches do not improve the pain, then trigger point injections with are the next solution.

Not only do trigger point injections help reduce neck and back pain, but they can also help discover its cause as well. If someone’s neck or back pain resolves after trigger point injections, we know the pain is due to the trigger point and not due to a different cause such as from a disc herniation or from arthritic joints. Knowing the cause of symptoms is key to crafting the best treatment plan.

What are trigger point injections?

Trigger point injections are safe, simple procedures performed by a doctor in his or her office. The injection takes only a few minutes.

A doctor begins by examining the patient and identifying the painful areas. The skin is cleansed and a small needle enters the trigger point. The depth of the needle is shallow, usually no more than ½ inch. A small amount of local anesthetic, or numbing medicine, is injected into the trigger point. The local anesthetic disrupts the signal of pain. Many times a twitch in the muscle is felt after the needle enters the trigger point as the muscle tension releases.

There may be some discomfort, like a pinch, when the needle enters the skin. The discomfort should last only a few minutes at most.

How often are trigger point injections repeated?

The length of time that trigger point injections are performed depends on several factors. One of which is how long the trigger points have been present. If the trigger points are new, one treatment may be enough. If there are several trigger points, and if they are present for a long period of time, then the trigger point injections are repeated weekly or monthly until they disappear.

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In summary

Trigger points are inflamed muscle in a constant spasm. Deep pressure on the trigger point causes an aching, burning pain that may radiate beyond the trigger point muscle itself. They are a common cause of neck and back pain and frequently result from a traumatic injury or from repetitive wear and tear. If trigger points persist, find a physician who performs trigger point injections. Trigger point injections are a fast, safe, simple procedure that can help find the source of neck and back pain, eliminate it, and prevent it from recurring again. If you have any questions regarding trigger point injections, please give me a call or you can call my office for an appointment 504-732-1094 to discuss this treatment option in more detail.