Trigger Point Injection

  • Medical Author:
    Catherine Burt Driver, MD

    Catherine Burt Driver, MD, is board certified in internal medicine and rheumatology by the American Board of Internal Medicine. Dr. Driver is a member of the American College of Rheumatology. She currently is in active practice in the field of rheumatology in Mission Viejo, Calif., where she is a partner in Mission Internal Medical Group.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Surprising Reasons You're in Pain Slideshow

What's a trigger point injection?

A trigger point injection (TPI) is an injection that is given directly into the trigger point for pain management. The injection may be an anesthetic such as lidocaine (Xylocaine) or bupivicaine (Marcaine), a mixture of anesthetics, or a corticosteroid (cortisone medication) alone or mixed with lidocaine. Sometimes, a needle alone is inserted into the trigger point, and no medication is injected. This may be helpful and is referred to as "dry needling." With the injection, the trigger point is made inactive and the pain is relieved.

How is the trigger point injection procedure performed?

The trigger point injection is performed in the health-care professional's office, usually with the patient either lying on the exam table on the stomach or sitting on the exam table. The exact protocol varies. The health-care professional performing the procedure locates the trigger point by manual palpation and marks the site. Ultrasound guidance is not generally necessary. The injection site is then cleaned. Alcohol or another skin cleanser such as betadine is commonly used to clean the injection site. Frequently, a numbing spray such as ethyl chloride is used to anesthetize the skin and make the actual injection less painful. The needle is then inserted into the trigger point and the medication is injected. After the injection, a simple adhesive bandage may be applied. If the area is painful after the injection, ice, heat, acetaminophen (Tylenol), or over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen sodium may be used.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/18/2015

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