Fibromyalgia is a generalized pain condition that may make your entire body hurt, including your back and neck. When your body hurts, you may also experience mental distress and fatigue and have trouble sleeping.
Many people with arthritis also have fibromyalgia. However, not everyone with fibromyalgia has arthritis.
About 2% of women and men in the United States suffer from the symptoms of fibromyalgia. Although you’re more likely to develop this pain condition as you age, nobody knows exactly why some people develop it and others don’t.
In addition to recommending lifestyle changes that may ease your fibromyalgia pain, Ravi Panjabi, MD, pain specialist and founder of Advanced Pain Management in Castro Valley, San Ramon, and Fremont, California, offers trigger point injections. Here’s why.
What’s a trigger point?
A trigger point is a knot in your muscle. Trigger points form when your muscles are overly tense and can’t relax. Sometimes you can actually feel the knots under your skin.
Although your fibromyalgia pain may be diffuse, making your entire body ache, you probably have trigger points from which some of the pain radiates. You may feel pain from a trigger point in areas located far from it, a phenomenon known as “referred pain.”
Also, when one muscle is tense or has knots in it, that affects your other muscles. Trigger points and muscle pain cause you to compensate for that affected muscle by relying more on your other muscles. Then those muscles grow tired and fatigued.
What’s a trigger point injection?
A trigger point injection is a method of delivering a mixture of saline, corticosteroids, and anesthetics directly into a trigger point. If you’re allergic to medications, Dr. Panjabi can even do what’s called a “dry needle” injection, in which no anesthetics or steroids are used.
Dr. Panjabi first locates your trigger points by gently palpating your muscles as you lie or sit comfortably on the treatment table. When he locates a trigger point, he injects the solution directly into it.
The anesthetic, such as xylocaine or lidocaine, alleviates the pain and helps the muscle relax. The steroid subdues inflammation and associated pain.
If he uses a dry-needle technique, he moves the needle up and down like a piston to decrease the tightness in the knot and increase blood flow to the area. The needle also activates a twitch response in the associated nerve, which helps to alleviate both local and referred pain.
You probably have a number of trigger points that need to be addressed in each treatment session. However, the procedure is simple and should only take a few minutes.
How does a trigger injection help overall pain from fibromyalgia?
The trigger point injections relax your knotted muscles so the muscle feels better and can work the way it should. Your other muscles also get to relax and perform better. Even though the anesthetic is only directed into the trigger point itself, you feel a general sense of relief as your knotted muscles and other tensed muscles relax.
Because your fibromyalgia makes you extra sensitive to pain, you may feel uncomfortable at the injection site directly after treatment. However, you can put a wrapped ice pack on the injection site to help subdue inflammation.
Don’t lift weights or do any strenuous activity for a few days after your treatment. Within a week or two, you should feel a significant reduction in your fibromyalgia pain and associated symptoms. Pain relief from trigger point injections can last up to several months, but this varies by individual.