What You Need to Know About Trigger Point Injections

Trigger point injections are being used to relieve the discomfort of chronic muscle pain.  Read on to learn more about how it is improving function and quality of life for some. Nurses General Nursing Knowledge


What You Need to Know About Trigger Point Injections

We have all experienced the discomfort of muscle pain. As nurses, we often overuse our musculoskeletal system during the workday and experience the consequences later. Intense pain can occur from simply sitting, standing or sleeping in the wrong position. Fortunately, most muscle aches and pains are usually relieved after a few days of rest and good self-care. But, some are not as lucky. Muscle pain can become chronic (myofascial pain syndrome) and significantly impact a person's function and quality of life. In these cases, trigger point injections (TPIs) may be used to help ease pain in muscles and surrounding tissue.

What Are Trigger Points? 

Trigger points are focused areas of spasm and inflammation in skeletal muscle. You can often feel a knot in the muscle where the trigger point is located. The primary site and surrounding area is usually tender with pain that radiates when pushed. The upper back and behind the shoulder areas are common sites and can cause headaches and neck and shoulder pain. However, trigger points can be found throughout the musculoskeletal system.

What Are Trigger Point Injections?  

TPIs are injections of medication given directly in the painful trigger point for pain management. The medication makes the trigger point inactive and relieves the spasming muscle. It is an outpatient procedure and performed by a doctor, usually in their office or clinic.

Medications Used for TPIs Include  

Local anesthetics

  • Used alone, mixed with other anesthetics or with corticosteroids
  • Xylocaine (Lidocaine), bupivacaine (Marcaine)

Corticosteroids- dexamethasone

  • Used alone or mixed with an anesthetic

Botox (botulinum toxin A)

  • Interferes with nerve signals and prevents muscle contraction

What Conditions Are Typically Treated With TPIs?  

TPIs are used to help relieve pain in conditions that affect our musculoskeletal and nervous systems.

Myofascial pain syndrome

TPIs may help relieve symptoms of myofascial pain syndrome, a chronic pain syndrome affecting muscles and their surrounding tissue (referred pain). Myofascial pain syndrome may be caused by:

  • Muscle trauma or injury
  • Repetitive motions
  • Poor Posture
  • Psychological stress


Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that has some of the same symptoms as arthritis, but affects our soft tissue instead of our joints.


Trigger points in the shoulder, neck and head can contribute to tension headaches and migraines.


A small study, published in PM&R, found TPIs may help with pelvic floor pain that is common with endometriosis. However, the authors recommend further research before firm conclusions can be drawn.

A Word About Dry Needling  

Dry needling for easing muscle pain is gaining in popularity. The procedure uses filiform needles and is referred to as "dry" because it does not inject any medications into the body. The needles are inserted into the knot, or affected area, to relieve muscle pains or spasms.

What Are The Side Effects?  

Some people experience pain and/or tenderness at the injection site that typically resolves after a few hours. Other side effects include:

  • Lightheadedness, dizziness
  • Discoloration or dimpling of skin around the injection site
  • Bleeding at the injection site (rare)

What Are The Risks? 

TPIs rarely cause serious complications, however, in rare cases they may lead to:

  • Infection at the injection site
  • Bruising
  • Muscle or nerve damage
  • Pneumothorax
  • Needle breakage

Who Should Not Have TPIs?  

TPIs should not be administered in the following circumstances:

  • Presence of systemic or local infection
  • In pregnant patients
  • Person who feels or appears ill

Precautions should be taken when administering TPIs in people with:

  • Bleeding disorders or anticoagulation therapies
  • Debility
  • Diabetes
  • Current steroid medications

Do They Work?  

In people with chronic muscle pain, TPIs may provide immediate pain relief and improved range of motion. However, everyone does not respond to the injections the same way. Researchers have found that some people do not benefit at all.

What do you think? Do TPIs have a place in pain management? 


A New Look at Trigger Point Injections

Trigger Point Injections

Everything You Need to Know About Trigger Point Injections


J. Adderton MSN has over 20 years experience in clinical leadership, staff development, project management and nursing education.

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Specializes in Ambulatory Care, Community Health, HIV.

I have chronic neck and shoulder pain, accompanied by migraines. If you were to feel my neck and upper back, you might think there is a tiny mountain range under there, or literal pebbles. So many palpable knots. I have tried trigger point injections and dry needling, so no avail. I was thrilled to find another possible avenue for treatment, but unfortunately I really didn't feel any difference in my pain or mobility. However, I think it is always great to have more options for pain relief, and I'm sure trigger point injections work for some. Thanks for this info!

Specializes in nutrition.

I used to visit the chiropractor just for the back adjustments but haven’t visited for the last couple of months. My back pain got worse during this time and I am in search of new solutions. Recently I come across a trigger point injection and one of my friends said that it is good for enduring back pain. 
I didn't mean that chiropractic sessions are not effective, but I need quick results and this post fills me with the necessary information needed.