Muscle knots, technically known as myofascial trigger points, can often feel like small, hard lumps within the muscle. They can cause significant discomfort, especially when these knots are touched or when the muscles are used. But what exactly are these knots, how do they form, and more importantly, how can they be treated? This post will explore these questions and shine a light on a beneficial treatment approach: Trigger Point Injections.
Muscle Knots: An Overview
Muscle knots are small, bump-like areas of muscle that can be felt under the skin. They develop when muscle fibers or the bands of tissue called fascia underneath them tense and tighten. This causes discomfort and, sometimes, pain, which can be constant or may flare up when the muscle is active or under stress. While muscle knots can develop for a number of reasons, some of the most common include poor posture, overuse of muscles during physical activities, sedentary behaviour, stress and tension, and injuries to muscles.
Diagnosing Muscle Knots
Diagnosing muscle knots involves a detailed physical examination. During this exam, your doctor will ask about your medical history, any recent physical activities, and the exact nature of your pain or discomfort.
The primary method of diagnosing a muscle knot is through examination and clinical tests – that is, the doctor will use their hands to feel the muscle for any hard lumps or areas of tension. They will also test the muscle’s strength and flexibility and may ask you to perform certain movements to see if and when pain occurs. They might also apply pressure to the suspected muscle knot to see if it causes referred pain (pain in another area of the body).
The Role of Ultrasound
In some cases, an ultrasound scan may be used to visualise muscle knots. Ultrasound uses sound waves to produce images of the muscles and other soft tissues in the body. This can help your doctor identify the muscle(s) involved and evaluate size and location. Ultrasound also can be useful in ruling out other potential causes of muscle pain, such as injuries or inflammation. It is an invaluable, safe and painless tool.
Trigger Point Injections: An Effective Treatment Option
Once muscle knots have been diagnosed, one of the most effective treatments available is a procedure known as trigger point injection. This involves injecting a small amount of medication, usually a local anesthetic and sometimes a corticosteroid, directly into the muscle knot. This can help to relax the muscle and relieve pain. The procedure is quick, often lasting no more than a few minutes. An ultrasound can sometimes help guide the injection accurately.
The Benefits of Trigger Point Injections
Trigger point injections have several benefits:
Fast Relief✅ : One of the primary benefits of trigger point injections is that they can provide fast relief from pain and discomfort. Many patients report feeling relief almost immediately after the procedure.
Improved Mobility✅ : By relaxing the muscle knot, trigger point injections can help to improve mobility and allow for a greater range of motion.
Aiding Physiotherapy✅ : These injections can be particularly helpful in conjunction with physical therapy. By reducing pain and improving mobility, they can make it easier for patients to participate in exercises and get the most benefit from them.
Safety and Side Effects
Trigger point injections are generally safe. However, as with any medical procedure, they do carry some risks. Potential side effects can include temporary pain or soreness at the injection site, bleeding, and infection. However, these side effects are rare, and when the procedure is performed by a skilled clinician, the risks are minimal.
When Should You Consider Trigger Point Injections?
If you've tried rest, heat or cold therapy, over-the-counter pain relievers, or physiotherapy and you still suffer from persistent muscle pain, trigger point injections could be a suitable solution for you. These injections are especially beneficial for individuals with conditions like fibromyalgia and myofascial pain syndrome that are characterized by chronic muscle pain. Moreover, individuals with tension headaches or migraines triggered by muscle knots can also benefit from these injections. In essence, anyone with a diagnosed muscle knot that hasn't responded to other treatments may find relief with trigger point injections.
The Procedure: What to Expect?
The procedure is typically performed in a doctor's clinic and takes just a few minutes. Here's a brief overview:
Preparation: The healthcare provider will clean the skin over the muscle knot with antiseptic to prevent infection.
Procedure: They will then insert a small needle into the muscle knot and inject a solution, usually containing a local anesthetic and sometimes a corticosteroid. The injection helps to relax the tense muscle fibers and alleviate pain.
Post-procedure: After the injection, you may be advised to apply heat or ice to the area and perform gentle range-of-motion exercises to help disperse the medication and maintain muscle flexibility.
Aftercare and Recovery
Recovery from a trigger point injection is generally quick. You might experience some soreness in the treated area, but this usually dissipates within a few hours to a couple of days. Over-the-counter pain relievers can help manage any post-procedure discomfort. Physiotherapy is often recommended as part of the recovery process. Regular exercise and stretching can help keep the muscles flexible and prevent muscle knots from returning. Your doctor can provide you with a suitable exercise plan.
In Conclusion, muscle knots can significantly affect your quality of life, impeding your mobility and causing discomfort or even chronic pain. Trigger point injections are an effective treatment that can provide quick and lasting relief. If you have been diagnosed with muscle knots, consider speaking with your doctor about the potential benefits of trigger point injections.
As with all medical conditions, it's essential to seek professional advice on the best approach based on your personal medical history and current health status. Trigger point injections, alongside other lifestyle adjustments, can be a stepping stone towards a life free of muscle knot-induced pain. Remember, your health is your wealth. Don't let muscle knots hold you back from living your life to the fullest. Relief might be just a trigger point injection away! Book your appointment today at ACTIVATE
About the Author: Dr. Mustafa Alnaib MBChB, MRCS, MSc, FEBOT is an orthopaedic surgeon, musculoskeletal doctor and Clinic Director at ACTIVATE Musculoskeletal Clinic in Kent.