If you have migraines, your doctor may try a variety of treatments to find the ones that give you the most pain relief. Trigger point injections are among the options your doctor may use to ease your pain.
A trigger point injection is a shot of medication that your doctor injects into a tight muscle. Here’s what you need to know about this migraine treatment option and what to consider to decide if it’s right for you.
What Are Trigger Points?
These are tight or irritated parts of a muscle that are painful when pressed. These tight areas, or points, can cause pain around and near the muscle and also can send pain to other areas of your body, such as your head.
When trigger points occur in your head, neck, and shoulders, they can be linked to headaches and migraines. Trigger points can be caused by an injury, inflammation, stress, or something else. Many people have these points, but they are more common among people who have migraines.
How Do Trigger Point Injections Work for Migraine?
During a trigger point injection, your doctor will inject a medication, usually an anesthetic, or pain-numbing medication, into the tight muscle. Anesthetics help block the pain receptors around the area being injected, as well as those that lead to the brain. This lessens the pain you feel.
Sometimes, your doctor may choose to inject a steroid instead of anesthetic or inject a mix of an anesthetic and a steroid. Steroids reduce inflammation and swelling in your muscle, which may help lessen your pain, as well.
The injection itself also can provide relief. When your doctor inserts the needle into the muscle, it can loosen tight fibers, which helps the muscle relax and gives added pain relief.
Who Can Benefit From Trigger Point Injections?
Many people can benefit from trigger point injections, especially those who have both muscle pain and migraines.
Your doctor will review your medical history and other migraine treatments you’ve tried, and they may do a physical exam to see if muscle tightness and trigger points are making your pain worse.
You may twitch or notice a spasm when your doctor pushes a tight muscle in your neck or shoulders. If that happens, it may be a sign that these injections can help ease your muscle tension and migraine pain.
How Are Injections Given and What Can I Expect?
Doctors can give trigger point injections in their office during one of your appointments. You can be awake the entire time. First, they will do an exam to find the area or areas in your muscles that cause pain when they touch them firmly.
You may have more than one trigger point. If so, your doctor can give you multiple injections during a single visit. Depending on where your trigger points are, your doctor may ask you to sit or lie down. Then, they’ll use a small needle to inject the medication.
You may have some pain during the injection. It’s also common to be sore or feel numb in the area of the shot for a little while afterward.
Although you’ll be able to use your injected muscle right away, you shouldn’t do hard activity or lift heavy objects. Ask your doctor when it’s OK to go back to your normal exercise routine.
How Long Will the Pain Relief Last?
Just as with other migraine treatments, trigger point injections work better for some people than others.
Most people who receive trigger point injections notice some pain relief right away, within minutes after the shot. The long-term results differ for each person. Some people get lasting relief from their migraines after just one injection. But others don’t notice much change in their pain or the number of migraines they get. Some people may need multiple or regular injections to keep migraines at bay.
Your doctor may ask you to keep track of your pain and migraines for several days or weeks after your shot. This is so they can see if the procedure has lessened your pain or how often you get migraines. This record will help you and your doctor decide how well the injection or injections worked for you.
Remember, trigger point injections are just one part of your migraine treatment. You still need to be mindful of triggers, or things known to bring on migraines, which can include stress, some foods, and bright light. It’s also important to work with your doctor to try different treatments and create a personalized plan with the medications and therapies that work best for you.
What Are the Risks?
The risk of complications from a trigger point injection is low. Infection and bleeding at the site of the injection are uncommon.
Before you get the shot, be sure your doctor knows about your medical history, allergies, and all medications you take. Let them know if you have any concerns about the injections or their side effects.
Where Can I Get Trigger Point Injections?
Different types of doctors can give trigger point injections, including neurologists, pain specialists, and providers who specialize in headache and pain disorders.
If you want to learn more about trigger point injections, and whether they may help ease your migraine pain, speak to the doctor who has been treating your migraines to see if they offer the procedure. If you don’t have a doctor who specializes in migraine treatment, talk to your primary care doctor, who can refer you to someone who does.