Trigger point injections can help treat some forms of chronic muscle pain. After your injections, you may experience some mild tenderness or soreness, but you can go back to your normal activities right away.

A trigger point injection is a procedure that releases tight areas of muscle under the skin, known as trigger points. This quick procedure is typically performed in a doctor’s office.

After getting trigger point injections, you can return to your usual activities immediately. There may be some tenderness at the injection site after your visit, but most healthcare professionals administer an anesthetic during the injection. The numb, tingly feeling of the anesthetic can last for several hours.

Trigger point injections are safe and effective. They can offer longer-term pain relief for some people, lasting several weeks or months.

This article will tell you what to expect during and after trigger point injections.

With trigger point injections, a healthcare professional uses a needle to insert a small amount of medication into a specific spot in a muscle. A trigger point is an area of muscle that causes referred pain. It may twitch, and you may feel a knot or tightness under the skin.

A trigger point is not the same as a tender spot. Trigger point injections are typically reserved for areas that are not only tight but also cause referred pain. Referred pain is when one spot on your body causes pain in another spot, such as down a limb.

Trigger point injections are also called wet needling. They often involve injecting an anesthetic such as lidocaine to numb the area or a corticosteroid to help with pain relief.

Dry needling is a similar technique that involves an injection into the trigger points. However, dry needling does not use medication.

Trigger point injections can help with pain from many conditions that involve trigger points. These include:

The procedure is also used in chronic musculoskeletal conditions.

During a trigger point injection, you can expect the following:

  1. You will sit or lie down on a table.
  2. The practitioner will clean the skin over the trigger point.
  3. They will inject a needle into the trigger point.
  4. They will move the needle inside the trigger point until the muscle relaxes.
  5. They will remove the needle.

You should be able to return to your regular activities immediately after the procedure. The healthcare practitioner may recommend resting or avoiding vigorous activities for a couple of hours or days, depending on your individual situation.

You may experience some numbness and tingling around the injection site. This typically lasts for a few hours. Once it wears off, you might have some tenderness or swelling, but this should also resolve quickly.

Most people can get themselves home after the procedure. If, however, your healthcare professional anticipates significant numbness in your driving foot or leg, they may ask you to refrain from driving.

Trigger point injections are generally very safe. According to a 2021 review of studies on trigger point injections for neck pain, the most common side effects of trigger point injections are:

  • bleeding
  • bruising
  • tenderness at the injection site
  • muscle pain
  • a burning sensation

Less frequently observed side effects were:

  • headache
  • fatigue
  • dizziness
  • allergic reaction

In the studies, none of these side effects needed follow-up treatment and went away within a few days.

In people with myofascial pain syndrome, dry needling may cause moderate muscle soreness around the injection sites. This is typically due to trauma to the muscle from repeated injections. This post-injection soreness usually lasts about 2 to 3 days.

Trigger point injections can bring quick relief from pain. Many people experience pain relief immediately following their injection. For others, it can take days or weeks for the full effects to become known.

However, you may experience soreness as a side effect of the procedure. Wet needling, which involves using an anesthetic, generally causes less post-needling soreness than dry needling, where no anesthetic is injected.

The length of time of pain relief from trigger point injections varies from person to person. The 2021 review of studies found that wet needling can provide relief for anywhere from 2 to 12 weeks after the procedure.

A 2021 report found that wet needling relieves pain better than dry needling in the time frame of 9 to 28 days after the procedure, but not in the days immediately following the procedure or 2 to 6 months afterward.

How often you can get repeat trigger point injections may depend on whether you are doing dry or wet needling and, if wet needling, which medication is used. There can be limits on the number of times you can inject cortisone into a certain area, due to its cumulative effects on tissue.

Your healthcare professional can tell you more about your unique case, but they should do their best to make sure your pain relief lasts as long as possible.

If you live with a chronic pain syndrome, your doctor may have other treatment options that can help relieve your symptoms.

There are other ways to relieve the pain associated with trigger points, including stretching and massage therapy. A 2017 study found that massage therapy relieved pain in people with tension headaches from trigger points.

Other pain relief options include:

Trigger points are tight areas of muscle that cause referred pain. A trigger point injection relieves this pain by releasing the tension in the muscle.

A trigger point injection is also called wet needling if it involves an injection of an anesthetic or corticosteroid. Dry needling is a similar technique that uses needle manipulation under the skin to release the muscle but does not involve medication.