Fibromyalgia is a largely misunderstood condition that causes chronic pain for patients. Although pain is not the only symptom, it is the primary symptom patients deal with. The question for some is whether trigger point injections are an appropriate treatment.
A trigger point injection utilizes a combination of anesthetic and steroidal medication to offer relief. According to Lone Star Pain Medicine in Weatherford, TX, trigger point injections are an option for several different types of musculoskeletal disorders. Their pain management doctors may offer it as one option for treating fibromyalgia.
General Musculoskeletal Pain
A general musculoskeletal pain spread across the entire body is the primary symptom associated with fibromyalgia. Two decades ago, the condition was known as ‘fibromyalgia syndrome’. It was designated a syndrome because there were no specific diagnostic tests to identify it. Today, the ‘syndrome’ portion has been dropped from the name.
There still are no diagnostic tests – like a blood test or an MRI, for example – for fibromyalgia. But doctors have learned to diagnose the condition by asking a list of targeted questions and then checking certain trigger points on the body. These trigger points are especially sensitive to pressure. If the patient responds to the majority of the pressure points, their responses are combined with answers given to the questions to suggest fibromyalgia.
Though science still does not know the exact cause of the fibromyalgia, there is growing evidence to suggest it is something with the central nervous system. Either fibromyalgia patients have a generally overactive nervous system, or their brains are especially sensitive to pain signals. What their brains perceive as pain may be a non-factor for most other people.
Other Fibromyalgia Symptoms
Widespread pain is fibromyalgia’s primary symptom. It is often described as a dull, or aching pain that persists for months on end. Patients can go for several months without relief, then feel fine for several months after that. Other patients report pain that lasts for years.
Fibromyalgia symptoms can also include:
- insomnia or other sleeping problems
- brain fog and other cognitive problems
- alternating bouts of constipation and loose stool
- different types of headaches, including migraines
- bouts of depression and/or anxiety.
In terms of depression and anxiety, it is not clear whether they are the result of living with fibromyalgia or an actual, direct symptom. Either way, it is not uncommon for fibromyalgia patients to suffer one or both mental health issues.
How Trigger Point Injections Help
So, how do trigger point injections help fibromyalgia patients? The main mechanism of the injections is to promote muscle relaxation. Doctors utilize a combination of anesthetic and steroid medication to encourage painful muscles to relax. When muscles relax, they are less likely to cause pain.
Trigger point injections are offered as an outpatient procedure. Patients are seated or asked to lie down on the treatment table. The doctor then addresses certain trigger points known to cause pain. Those to which the patient responds are prime candidates for an injection.
The number of trigger points treated in any given session is up to the doctor and patient. Injecting multiple trigger points during the same visit is not unusual. And because each injection only takes a few minutes, a doctor can treat multiple trigger points in very little time.
Trigger point injections are just one option for treating fibromyalgia. They are certainly appropriate for fibromyalgia, but doctors experienced in treating the condition may suggest other options as well. The key to successful treatment is managing symptoms as best as possible. Unfortunately, there is no cure for fibromyalgia at this time.