If you suffer from headaches, be they migraines or tension headaches, chronically or just every once in awhile, you have likely tried (or possibly even exhausted) all of the over the counter treatment options readily available. While many people find relief from NSAID painkillers, they are not an effective treatment option over a long period of time given the sometimes scary side effects associated with prolonged use. Luckily, patients seeking treatment for headaches have more options than ever. Trigger point injections for headaches can be effective on their own or as part of a comprehensive treatment for headaches, depending on a variety of factors which should be evaluated by a medical professional.
Trigger Point Injections for Headaches
Trigger points in a nutshell
But first, a little about trigger points … A trigger point is, at its most basic explanation, an area of muscle that has been injured and is, as a result, overly sensitive. Most of your body’s organs and muscles are covered in what is known as fascia. Fascia is a thin, fibrous connective tissue that can frequently be damaged over the course of time. Fascia also loses some of its flexibility with age, meaning that the likelihood of scar tissue forming and causing problems (trigger points) increases.
Trigger points tend to form as a result of poor posture or overuse, though they can also be the result of a “traumatic onset” such as whiplash one might get in a car accident. As a result of the damage and scar tissue in the fascia, inflammation occurs in the muscle. To further complicate matters, active trigger points result in pain that may not directly correspond to the injured area (this is as opposed to latent trigger points which present as simple tender spots in your muscles).
For example, an active trigger point in the area between your shoulders and behind your neck—otherwise known as the trapezius muscles—can very likely lead to tension headaches and the like. A knowledgeable medical professional can pinpoint which of the trapezius muscles might be causing a headache as a result of an active trigger point depending on where on your head the pain manifests itself.
Using trigger point injections as a treatment for headaches
For many patients, trigger point injections are an effective treatment for headaches to dramatically reduce the frequency and severity of pain. Furthermore, the multiplicity of types of trigger point injections further helps by giving physicians multiple options when deciding on the best course of treatment to confront chronic or acute headache pain.
Perhaps the most simple type of trigger point injections for headaches are the ones in which a thin filiform needle is inserted into the trigger point without any substance being injected at all. This is known as dry needling and is effective at relieving pressure in the trigger point in question.
When the needle is inserted correctly, the muscle fibers that were previously taught tend to loosen up in response to the needle, rendering the trigger point inactive. To be clear, while they share some similarities, dry needling is distinct from traditional acupuncture in a number of ways, chiefly in that it lacks the metaphysical elements that inform most schools of acupuncture. Furthermore, practitioners must maneuver the needle in a particular way and in response to twitch reactions within the muscles.
Ideally, dry needling is a treatment for headaches performed by a licensed medical professional to ensure safety and efficacy.
Steroid Trigger Point Injections
Steroid trigger point injections are an effective treatment for headaches because of their ability to dramatically reduce inflammation.As mentioned earlier, active trigger points cause headaches because of irritation and inflammation in a muscle.
Steroids work by inhibiting the production of chemicals in your body that causes inflammation. Corticosteroids are especially good for this type of treatment because they mimic cortisol—a substance already naturally made in your body.
Anesthetics may be used either alone or in concert with steroids as part of a strategy to use trigger point injections as a treatment for headaches. Anesthetics work by blocking the nerves, in this case, those in the area of damaged fascia and inflamed muscle, to keep your brain from perceiving the pain (in the case of trigger point injections for headaches, the nerves referring pain from your neck and shoulder area to your head are blocked).
While it is important that trigger point injections only be performed by qualified practitioners, they are performed on an outpatient basis, require virtually no downtime and have minimal side effects. While bruising and bleeding at the injection site may occur, patients report minimal soreness afterward if any pain at all.
If you have been suffering from headaches and are interested in finding out whether or not you are a candidate for trigger point injections, be sure to contact us today. In addition to these injections, we offer a plethora of other options that may be right for you as you try to find a successful treatment for headaches.