Last weekend I had the pleasure of babysitting for my older cousin. Not actually a parent, and far past my own years of childhood, I confess that I was slightly nervous. While I adore her children (plural), and love them in small doses (an hour or two tops), I’m for the most part pretty unfamiliar with how to handle a three and seven-year-old for 24-hours at a time. You heard that right, twenty-four hours, including a sleepover and early morning wake-up call. Needless to say I rallied the troops for support, and took my mom’s advice to take them to their favorite 50’s themed diner, to tire them out before they came home to go to bed.
For the most part, the night went smoothly. At seven-years-old, my cousin’s oldest is pretty self-sufficient and willing to help wherever needed, and at three, her youngest only wants to follow his older sister around aimlessly. In fact, by the time we had reached dinner, I parked only to find the younger of the two passed out and snoring in his car seat, while my husband took the oldest inside to get started on some arcade games. The night was going smoothly, and by the end of dinner, as their eyes drooped, I was fully convinced that bedtime would be nothing short of a home runner.
Then came the moment. If you’re a parent—or even a babysitter—then you know the one. Where you call the night what it is: over. The oldest was understanding, and admittedly tired, but the three-year-old in typical three-year-old fashion, scrunched up his face, narrowed his eyes, and let out a wail that only a dog could hear. To say that he did not understand in the same way his sister did would be an understatement. He was shrill, angry, and didn’t want me anymore, but rather insisted on his mom and dad (both of whom were busy dancing the night away). The tantrum lasted for thirty or so minutes and ended with him passed out in his bed, breathing raggedly, and fighting hiccups from his crying. But in the end (other than his three am wake-up call wherein he snuck into the guestroom, and promptly turned around and left), that was the last we heard of him for the night.
So why all the talk about a three year old on a pain management site? Well, besides the painful screaming that comes with a three-year-old’s fit, a tantrum is actually a pretty accurate representation of what happens with trigger points. Trigger points, or the tight knot that forms within the fascia (the soft, stretchy, connective tissue that surrounds the muscles and organs), causes pain in the surrounding area of the body. Just as with a three-year-old’s temper tantrum, a trigger point appears when you ask the body to do something that it is either not ready or able to do. The cause of a trigger point can vary from a sport’s injury to lifting a heavy box, and is reminiscent of the common Charley Horse (you know those pesky calf cramps that typically strike in the dead of night) in feeling.
Luckily, for those of that suffer from trigger points, there’s hope. An outpatient procedure, trigger point injections are designed to reduce or relieve the pain caused by trigger points. Preparation for the procedure is fairly mild, involving only that the trigger point be cleaned and sterilized prior to the injection. Depending on the injection site, the area may undergo a nerve block to inhibit pain signals from reaching the brain, or a local anesthetic to help with any discomfort. Following preparation, a needle filled with an anesthetic mixture is injected into the trigger point, causing it to relax, relieving pain. The surrounding injection site may remain tender and is covered with a bandage, allowing the patient to go about their day.
With the prognosis for trigger points being very good, those suffering from the pain will be thrilled to learn about this injection. Isolated trigger points caused by over exertion of the body can be expected to feel relief with one injection, while those suffering from chronic pain and multiple reoccurring trigger points, may need to undergo several different injections. And when like a three-year-old your trigger flares up in the middle of the night, pitter-pattering across the hardwood floor, and tiptoeing the line before having another tantrum, remember that while the pain may severe at the time, there’s always a trigger point injection just a phone call away.