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Can Trigger Point Injections Help My Headaches?

Can Trigger Point Injections Help My Headaches?

As you probably know, headaches are extremely common. In developed countries, tension-type headaches (the most common kind) affect more than a third of men and half of women. And of those people, up to 1 adult in 20 has a headache every day. Migraine, a neurological headache disorder, affects at least 1 adult in 7 worldwide.

At Pinnacle Pain and Spine, Matthew Crooks, MD, and our staff understand how disabling headaches can be, making it difficult to concentrate or even to function. 

For those whose headaches are brought on or exacerbated by trigger points, trigger point injections may provide the relief you so desperately need.

What are trigger points?

Trigger points are oversensitized or irritated areas in muscle that cause a tightening of the muscle fibers. They form a knot under the skin that you can feel and sometimes see. 

These trigger points can impinge a single nerve or a cluster, and when pressed, they produce pain in the affected muscle as well as in remote locations. The latter is known as referred pain.

Trigger points located in your head, neck, and shoulder muscles can cause a headache by themselves, and certainly when they’re touched. This type of condition is often called myofascial pain syndrome, a catchall phrase meaning you have widespread inflammation and pain in the connective tissue (fascia) surrounding the muscle. 

Trigger points are often present in people with migraine, tension-type, and other headache disorders, and can contribute to the worsening of the underlying headache condition.

What are trigger point injections and can they help me?

A trigger point injection is a mixture of saline and a local anesthetic like lidocaine (and sometimes a steroid to combat inflammation) into the muscle knots. 

You should feel relief at the spot of the injection and in the areas of referred pain since the muscle contractions have been silenced. That means if the pain is being referred into your neck and head, causing headaches, you should experience headache relief following the injection.

The anesthetic works by blocking pain receptors within the nerves surrounding the muscle, thereby reducing the pain signals sent to the brain. 

If Dr. Crooks includes a steroid, it works to reduce the inflammation and swelling of tissue around the nerves, also helping to reduce pain. Even using a needle without any medication (called “dry needling”) can be helpful since it separates, relaxes, and lengthens the muscle fibers. We often use it for patients who are allergic to the anesthetic.

The best candidates for trigger point injections are patients who have specific trigger points that generate pain when touched. They can provide immediate relief if you suffer severe pain from a tension-type headache or a migraine attack. They can also treat a worsening of symptoms if you have a chronic headache disorder.

Are trigger point injections safe?

The short answer is yes. You may experience temporary side effects such as pain and numbness at the injection site, and in rare cases, bleeding or infection, but you should experience pain relief shortly after. 

We can repeat the injections as necessary to ensure more lasting effects. And the trigger point itself, as well as the areas of referred pain, should experience less sensitivity overall.

If you have a headache that’s coming from, or exacerbated by, trigger points in your neck, shoulders, and/or back, consider trigger point injections. Contact us today at Pinnacle Pain and Spine to learn more or to schedule a consultation. 

We have offices in Scottsdale, Chandler, and Fountain Hills, Arizona.

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