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Trigger Point Pain

AMBULATORY CARE:

A trigger point

is also called a muscle knot. It is a tight lump in an area of muscle that can cause pain. Trigger points may form after muscle injury, overuse, stress, or tension. Muscle stress may be from poor posture or an awkward sleep position. Emotional stress can make you tense certain muscles, such as in your neck.

Common signs and symptoms:

  • Pain that may be constant or only during movement or when the trigger point is pressed
  • Pain that spreads or happens in another area (called referred pain)
  • Problems moving a joint as far as it can go because the trigger point shortened a nearby muscle
  • Muscle weakness
  • Feeling dizzy or hearing ringing in your ears
  • Red skin over the trigger point
  • Skin that tingles or is sensitive to the touch
  • More saliva or tears than usual

Call your doctor or pain specialist if:

  • You have new or worsening pain around the trigger point.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Treatment

may include any of the following:

  • A cooling substance may be sprayed on your skin over the point. This helps relax the muscle, which is then gently stretched.
  • Massage may help relax the point. Your healthcare provider will massage the muscle that contains the trigger point. He or she may also do compression therapy. He or she presses on the trigger point until the muscle relaxes. He or she will then stretch the muscle.
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) uses signals to help relieve pain. Pads are placed on and around the trigger point. They may also be placed where you have referred pain. The pads are attached to a device that sends electrical signals to reduce pain.
  • Physical therapy can help relieve and prevent trigger points. A physical therapist will teach you exercises that stretch your muscles and relieve pain. Your therapist may also help you find the causes of your trigger points, such as poor posture. He or she can help you make changes to prevent more trigger points.
  • Medicines may help with pain. Medicines such as ibuprofen may be suggested by your provider. He or she may also prescribe muscle relaxers.
  • A trigger point injection helps relax the trigger point. A needle is put through your skin and into the trigger point. Saline (salt solution), pain relievers, or other medicines may be pushed through the needle into the trigger point. A dry needle (no medicine) may be used. When the needle is removed, the muscle area is gently stretched.

Manage or prevent trigger point pain:

  • Do regular stretches of the trigger point muscle. Place gentle pressure on the trigger point, and then stretch the muscle. Ask your healthcare provider for more information about how to stretch and apply pressure.
  • Apply heat to trigger point sites. Heat can help relax muscles and relieve trigger point pain. Use a heat pack or a heating pad set on low. Apply heat for 15 minutes every hour, or as directed.

Follow up with your doctor or pain specialist as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.