Patients suffering from chronic lower back pain may feel like their situation is hopeless, but the truth is that there is a wide range of minimally invasive treatment options available to them. Determining which treatment is most appropriate begins with a thorough physical examination and a discussion of the patient’s medical history. At our New Jersey spine practice, we pay particularly close attention to this part of the consultation, as knowing when the pain began and what makes it better or worse is just as critical to our understanding of the patient’s condition as the various diagnostic tests we may order.
When we review these diagnostic tests and our patients’ symptoms, we often find that herniated discs, spinal compression fractures, degenerative disc disease or spinal stenosis in the lumbar spine create associated pain in other areas, and most specifically in the lower back and gluteal muscles. Referred to as trigger points, these areas are usually small and well localized areas within that muscle that become tight knots that are extremely tender and painful. They are caused by a compression of nerves that is created by the herniation itself. Fortunately, trigger points can easily be treated through injections that relax them, providing long-lasting relief.
Trigger point injections consist of local anesthetic that may be combined with a steroid. Different types and lengths of needles may be used, and multiple trigger points can be treated in a single session. Some patients find that a single session provides all the relief that they need, while others may be better served through a series of sessions.
One study of patients with non-specific lower back pain found that almost all of them suffered from trigger points in the hip muscles and lower back, and that these had a significant impact on their ability to sleep and overall discomfort. The patients were provided with either an exercise program and medication or trigger point injections, and the group that had those injections reported a significant reduction in pain and improved overall function that far exceeded those of the group engaging in exercise and taking medication.
This option for reduction in pain is accessible, simple and safe. The entire procedure only takes a few minutes, and patients are able to return to their normal activities quickly. Perhaps most importantly, the injections not only make improves our patients’quality of life, but also makes a substantial difference in their subsequent ability and willingness to engage in other important therapies, including stretching, exercise and physical therapy. The impact is usually long-lasting, though different patients have different results. Some find the benefit lasts for a week or two, while others have reported that it takes months before the pain of trigger points return.
If you are suffering from lower back pain and trigger points associated with that pain, the first step is an examination. Contact our lumbar spine practice in New Jersey today to set up a time for a consultation.