Trigger point injections are an increasingly common therapy aimed at providing lower back pain relief. If you are considering this treatment, the question becomes: what exactly is a trigger point and why would I want something injected into it?
A trigger point is the sensitive portion of a tight, bound-up muscle. These areas are tender to the touch (hence the name) and cause pain if pressure is applied. Note that an entire tight muscle is not a trigger point, but rather the part(s) of the muscle most sensitive to touch. There can be several such points in one muscle where you use trigger point injections.
These sensitive spots occur when a part of the muscle is in a constant state of contraction. This causes the area of the muscle to feel tight. Additionally, these areas tend to cause a burning ache, as the muscular contraction makes it harder for blood to flow through the muscle. Additionally, this extra tension puts stress on surrounding joints and connective tissue.
I am sure you are thinking that none of these side effects sounds pleasant, and it is easy to see why injections for trigger points might seem like a good idea. However, before jumping to conclusions, there are a few other factors to consider. Why have trigger points only become popular to treat recently? Why do they occur in the first place? Will injections help?
Trigger points have only become popular recently because they can't actually be physically observed in the tissue. In other words, if someone was put under for surgery, and a surgeon cut the skin over the top of a theoretical trigger point, there would be no difference between the sensitive site and the appearance of the surrounding muscle.