How Does Trigger Point Therapy Treat Headaches?
A trigger point is a tight band or knot of muscle that refuses to relax. It can be caused by inflammation, trauma or injury to the muscle. When this trigger point stays contracted, it can irritate the surrounding nerves, causing pain and tenderness in other parts of the body, including the head. Trigger points can cause migraines and other chronic headache disorders, and can worsen those that are already there. The decreased blood flow from the surrounding tissue prevents healing.
Trigger point therapy can help some patients suffering from tension headaches, migraine, post-traumatic headaches and other types of headache. This form of therapy will help some patients more than others.
Trigger Point Headaches
Trigger point headaches are a certain type of headache that usually seem to start from the neck and move upward toward the head. There may be a sense of tension or a “pulling” sensation running up the top of the spine into the scalp and upward. These headaches are often accompanied by other symptoms, such as:
- Pain in the back of the shoulder or behind the shoulder blades
- A tightening feeling in the joints, causing a limited range of motion
- Lower back pain that spreads down into the buttocks
- Deep aches in the neck and back muscles
Trigger Point Injections
During a trigger point therapy procedure, a healthcare professional consults a trigger point chart to determine which points are affecting your body and causing or worsening your headaches. You can be seated or lying down during the procedure, and there’s no need for sedation. The doctor will palpate the muscle to identify the painful areas.
After identifying these trigger points, the doctor then inserts a small needle into the muscle that’s the cause of your pain. This injection includes an anesthetic such as lidocaine and sometimes a steroid medication. The anesthetic blocks pain receptors in the nerves and reduces the pain signals being sent to the brain. If steroids are included, these are used to reduce inflammation that may be in the muscle, adding to the problem. The needle itself helps to separate, loosen and relax the muscle fiber in the trigger point, further helping it return it to its more normal configuration.
Side Effects of Trigger Point Therapy
The side effects of trigger point therapy are generally minimal. You may temporarily experience some increased pain at the trigger point spot, along with swelling or tenderness. Some patients experience redness or skin irritation around the injection spots. Itching and burning around the injection site are possible but rare. Most patients do experience some light-headedness.
You may feel your pain has reduced significantly right after the treatment, both in the trigger point area and with your headache problem. Some patients see no improvement at all right away, and others need multiple treatments for the desired results. Not all patients benefit from trigger point therapy, while others have major relief that lasts for weeks.
Adkins Headache Center: Trigger Point Injections
We take a holistic view of care here at Adkins Headache Center: we use multiple approaches to each patient’s pain, using every treatment possible to craft a personalized approach to migraine, chronic and acute headache problems.
When you come in for trigger point therapy, your headache specialist will identify trigger points on your body with a physical examination. The doctor will then proceed with the trigger point injections. Multiple trigger points can be treated in one session, and the treatment can be repeated within a month if it involves only a numbing agent. Treatments using steroids can be repeated every three months.
Trigger point therapy can be an effective defense against migraines, but it is most effective in combination with other treatment methods such as acupuncture, pharmacological therapy and physical therapy.