The Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Clinics of North America reports that about 21 to 30 percent of the general population experiences myofascial pain. (Myofascial refers to the muscle tissues, often in the neck and upper and lower back.) If you suffer from this kind of pain, know that you can work with your dentist and other medical professionals to find ways to make you more comfortable. Among other pain management treatments, trigger-point injections may help you find relief.
What Causes Trigger Points?
Trigger points are areas of muscle spasm or tension that often appear in the back or shoulder regions. The trigger point may have a nodule — also referred to as a muscle knot — that radiates pain when touched. Trigger points are often associated with pain caused by temporomandibular disorders (TMD), myofascial pain syndrome and headache, reports MedicineNet.
A patient may experience pain in the temporomandibular joint itself or in the facial or neck muscles surrounding the jaw. Clicking or popping of the jaw joint, facial pain during normal activities like chewing and abnormal movement of the jaw during opening and closing may also accompany a trigger point.
Trigger-Point Injections for Pain Relief
Injections to the tender muscle area may help relieve pain when other methods have proven ineffective, according to the Mayo Clinic. Trigger-point injections may be administered with medication, such as an anesthetic or corticosteroid, or simply as dry needles with no medication involved. Either way, the insertion of the needle helps inactivate the trigger point and break up the tension. Ideally, a patient will only need one injection session to feel better, but if they suffer from chronic facial pain, they may want to pursue regular sessions.
Side effects are relatively uncommon for this procedure, but some patients may experience mild pain at the injection site, states MedicineNet. The pain usually resolves on its own within a few days, but ice or over-the-counter medications may be useful.
Who Administers the Injections?
Facial pain and TMD are complex problems. There is no designated dental specialty in this area, but some dentists have training in pain management, in which case they may be able to offer treatment recommendations. A patient may also choose to see a medical professional who specializes in pain management. When administered by a trained professional, trigger-point injections are safe and not painful.
Other Approaches to TMD Pain Management
In many cases, medical professionals recommend a conservative approach to TMD pain management, such as exercising and eating a soft diet. Physical therapy or using an appliance to reposition the bite may also provide relief.
Another promising method on the horizon is botulinum toxin (botox) injections. You may be aware of using botox injections for cosmetic facial procedures, but a study in the Journal of Oral Medicine and Oral Surgery found that it may also provide TMD pain relief when injected into the muscle tissue. The participants in the study had reduced pain for over four months, indicating that this method has the potential to relieve tender trigger points.
Before seeking any type of pain management treatment, discuss your concerns with your dentist and doctor. They will support you and help you find the best, most effective route to relief.